Prof. Westengard | O628 | Fall 2022

Blog 2 – Sam Fletcher

When referring to this part in Haggertys’s quote, “normative-heteronormative, if you will-configurations of human interaction”, I believe he is referring to society’s ideals or rather societal norms. He speaks of heteronormative which is a word that describes how heterosexuality is so heavily normalized and ingrained through so many cultures and religious practices that, heterosexuality is viewed as not only the default but also the only legitimate form of sexuality. When in fact, there are many other existing sexualities, and when people have a sexuality that is not heterosexual, they are constantly ostracized, looked down upon, or punished for not abiding by societal norms. Now to the next part of the quote, ” if you will-configurations of human interaction”, I believe he refers to once again, our society’s ideals and how the majority follows along. An example displaying this would be how media manipulates the concept of gender to children from such a young age. Done by incorporating these ideals and mindsets into their commercials, shows, books, and culture. Associating girls to pink, boys to blue, girls to dolls and dress-up, boys to cars and legos. They input societal ideals into every media in an attempt to normalize these practices, and this goes for everything. It goes from mannerisms within culture, to the way we act.

In The Castle of Otranto, one of the instances that I can recall where the configurations are challenged is the frightening instance between young Isabella and Manfred. Before the ceremony of the assigned marriage could even start, the tragic murder of Conrad, the son of Manfred, concurred. In reaction to this horrid scene, Manfred’s horrific and disgusting intentions shine brighter than they had ever before. Experiencing an exceeding amount of emotions, he ended up losing his mind. In desperation for having no son to continue his bloodline or what he refers to as his “race”, he relies on his horrific sexual desires and aims to pursue Isabella. As he confronted her, Isabella refused but Manfred proceed to insist and attempted to sexually assault the young lady. Configurations that were challenged were that Manfred had broken up his idealistic family, divorced his wife the second his son died, and distanced away from his daughter. All this to just shamefully attempt to touch his daughter-in-law without her consent. The story used topics of sexual-abuse, cheating, and you could also refer to incestual attempts, to emphasize the terror and horror of this piece.

What definitely came to mind when mentioning Haggerty’s claim about Walpole, was the chase scene between Manfred and Isabella. Quoting from the passage, ““I tell you,” said Manfred imperiously, “Hippolita is no longer my wife; I divorce her from this hour. Too long has she cursed me by her unfruitfulness. My fate depends on having sons, and this night I trust will give a new date to my hopes.” I had previously summarized pieces of the chase between Manfred and Isabella in the previous paragraph, but in this specific quote, Manfred is pleading to Isabella begging to mate with her. He attempts to convince and manipulate her that he is, and could be in place Conrad, for her. He describes himself to be a real, grown man. Isabella pleads that he has a wife and another child waiting for him, as she is also his daughter-in-law, and despite the facts that he is faced with, he counters her saying he had already dropped them from his life just for this very moment. This is his incestuous desire as she tells him she is his daughter-in-law but he proceeds to attempt to pursue her. This shows his true obsession, his eagerness, and his desperation to just satisfy his sexual needs with this young lady. Not only is he filled with sexual desires, but he is also consumed by his selfishness and egotistical needs, as he frantically finds someone who can birth boys to his bloodline.

Quoting the passage, “There she stopped, not knowing whither to direct her steps, nor how to escape from the impetuosity of the Prince. The gates of the castle, she knew, were locked, and guards placed in the court. ” The physical features of the castle often were described to be filled with uncertainty, while at the same time felt alien and narrow. In the eyes of Isabella, while being chased and running through the unknown castle the stairs felt so thin from the rush. Being surrounded by hundreds of knick-knacks with unknown traps and passages, while also not knowing which way is accessible or not. It was like a maze, you don’t know if you will be safe in the end because someone is right behind you trying to get you and hurt you. At the end of the day no matter how much she runs, it is Manfred’s castle. He knows every corner of his home and she does not, the only way for him to not find out where she is , is if she hides and flees strategically, making no sounds, leaving no trace, and fooling him. That’s how the physical features represent political and sexual entrapment in the story because just like before the chase even started, she was trapped in a place with Manfred. Isabella had tried to use her words to escape the situation, but it did not work, it brought them nowhere. Manfred had still attempted to get what he wanted, and just like that, the chase incorporated with the castle’s physicality emphasized the feelings of entrapment politically because no matter where she went, it was Manfred’s territory. He knew where things were and she wasn’t, he had the upper hand almost like the societal interpretation that a man is more powerful, he is the one in charge. The feelings of sexual entrapment were reflected through the fearful darkness of the place, the unknown locked doors, and maze-like infrastructure while knowing someone is after you at the same time. Emphasizing the feeling of Isabella where everywhere she would go, Manfred still had a grasp on her, because the halls are narrow the place is enclosed.

When thinking of some contemporary examples of fiction or media that represent “hallmarks of gothic fiction”, I immediately think of Coraline the animated movie. It covers many topics such as the presence of the undead, such as ghosts. And a twisted parallel world filled with horror reflecting/ mimicking the protagonist’s troubles, affecting and manipulating them psychologically.

6 Comments

  1. Shaneka

    Firstly, your response to the questions is answered nicely! I agree with the idea you brought up about sexual entrapment. Additionally, the unknown locked doors can represent the paths of danger regarding her “purity” and the lingering feeling that Manfred can snatch it from her at any moment. The darkness of the castle can mean Manfred, who looms in the shadows lurking with his lustful thought and waiting to catch Isabella, who hides in the dark to protect herself from Manfred’s sexual perversions.

    • Sam Fletcher

      Hi Shaneka! I love how you mention how the castle’s unknown locked doors represent Isabella’s “purity” and that Manfred can take it away from her at any second. It’s such a good way to correlate the castle’s physical interior to Isabella’s character, and I honestly didn’t catch that, it’s really clever.

  2. amandahasandjekaj

    Hi Sam. Great writing! The movie “Coraline” is a great contemporary example of fiction or media that represent “hallmarks of gothic fiction”.

    • Sam Fletcher

      Hi Amanda! I’d also like to mention that “Coraline” is not only a good contemporary example of gothic fiction, but it’s also a coming-of-age gothic story for children. Which makes it an even more interesting movie, spilling such uncommon topics and elements towards the demographic of children.

  3. Balia Michelle Melendez

    Hi Sam! I like how in your writing you used a movie which is “Coraline” as in example and how you explained each quote you used in your writing.

  4. Laura Westengard

    What a fantastic analysis of Otranto! I was considering having the class watch Coraline later in the semester. You might have convinced me!

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