Feminist Perspective of A Sicilian Romance and The Castle of Otranto

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A Feminist Perspective of A Sicilian Romance and The Castle of Otranto In eighteenth century novels, a common means of discussing the role of women in society is through the characterization of two good sisters. The heroine of such a novel is a pure, kind young woman who also has a streak of spunkiness. Her sister may be more good and kind, but she is more submissive and reserved. I would like to look at these sisters (and their mothers) in Ann Radcliffe’s A Sicilian Romance , and The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. It is possible that The Castle of Otranto was the first to introduce these two good sisters as a means of exploring the duties and expectations of modern woman and her right to love. Interestingly, the book…show more content…
Isabella is of a cheerful disposition, but her soul is pure as virtue itself.” Matilda opposes “virtuous” with “cheerful,” the latter word given as an opposition to the suggestion that Isabella may have a flirtatious nature. It seems that one who is very pure and virtuous must not only hide sexual interest, but must curb evidence of any happiness or active enjoyment of life. This cheerfulness might indicate self-interest or a threateningly passionate nature. When Hippolita announces that a marriage between Frederick and Matilda has been proposed, Isabella says to Hippolita , “...But think not, lady, that thy weakness shall determine for me. I swear, hear me all ye angels—” (Walpole, 106). Matilda, who is in love with Theodore, cannot but agree to obey her mother. Hannah More was a writer of a popular conduct book, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education. Kathryn Kirkpatrick writes that Hannah More felt that “One of the duties that the middle-class woman was to learn from her reading was how to contain and control her own feelings as well as those of her husband” (Tobin, 222). Generally, the gothic novel is a genre where women are forced into such extreme situations that they cannot control their feelings. Both Walpole’s and Radcliffe’s novels are filled with fainting and protestation and tears, but there are also examples of female restraint.

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