Prof. Westengard | O628 | Fall 2022

Blog 2


Haggerty means when he writes "normative … configurations of human interaction," the desirable actions seen within society are placed in fiction to be challenged and discussed in their viability. One instance where Walpole challenged a norm in Otranto was with the character Theodore. Theodore being poor and having such a brave and brilliant personality would be considered the norm. Poor people are viewed as insignificant, have lowly personalities, and obey the people above them as absolute power. Theodore showed us in the story that just because he is poor means it is less than, and he begins to challenge the people in control of his rights and freedom and question their practices.
"At those words, he seized the cold hand of Isabella, who was half dead with fright and horror. She shrieked and started from him; Manfred rose to pursue her when the moon, which was now up and gleamed in at the opposite casement, presented to his sight the plumes of the fatal helmet, which rose to the height of the windows, waving backward and forwards in a tempestuous manner, and accompanied with a hollow and rustling sound. Isabella, who gathered courage from her situation, and who dreaded nothing so much as Manfred's pursuit of his declaration, cried—"

The passage above comes from Chapter one when Manfred calls for Isabella to come to him, where he tells her of his plans to divorce his wife. Once he tells her of his plan to divorce his wife, he then reveals that he wants to marry her in place of his late son. This passage creates the effect of horror and fear; firstly, with the victimized female, the incestuous desire of a libidinous male, knowing how taboo this relationship would be, it sets a level of disgust within the reader and sets in an unsettling atmosphere. Nextly the physical features of the castle instill the representation of political entrapment, from the description of the window's height to the commotion's eerie sounds. The size of the windows displays the grandness of the castle and how easily trapped Isabella is by Manfred. There is also a sexual nature of the entrapment because the two are trapped inside this space, with one having a feverish lust for the other. The atmosphere creates a sense of dread and fear for readers; not only the suffocating feeling of power Manfred holds over Isabella, but the sexual intimidation he has over as well sets the scene for anxiety and panic about what's to come next. Lastly, with all these elements embedded in the story, the atmosphere of the story now reads and feels dreary, dreadful, and gloomy.
A modern example of effects is the novel and movie series Flowers in the Attic. The story follows Christopher, Corinne, and their children; Christopher dies in a car and leaves Corinne with a mountain of debt. Corinne, daughter of a multi-millionaire, reveals that her dad disowned her after she married Christopher, and she intends to go to her childhood home to win her father. Her father does not know she had children during this marriage, so the kids are forced to stay secluded in the home's Attic. With these events set into motion, a ring of incest emerges in the story, from Corinne and her husband to her kids left to raise and fend for themselves. Flowers in the Attic have similar effects to what Haggerty stated about Otranto, from the complex relationship of the brother and sister to the physical and symbolic aspect of the Attic. The physical part is how physical barrier prevents the children from living a fulfilling life and developing healthy relationships. The symbolic function is that it represents them being locked away; an attic is a place that is suffocating and gloomy. This idea comes to be seen with the kids as they grow older and develop, feeling suffocated by the one room they know and the grim feeling that they possibly can't get out.


  1. Rebecca Joseph

    Hi Shaneka!

    I didn’t even think of Theodores social station as a challenge to normal configuration of human interaction and I completely agree. Theodore being poor constantly speaks up for himself and is complemented on his logic and wit a number of times. I think by extension, Matildas crush for him would also be seen as a challenge because an amiable princess shouldn’t be in love with someone who is poor.

  2. Laura Westengard

    You have made some fantastic observations, Shaneka! Flowers in the Attic is a fascinating comparison to Otranto.

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