The 18th century had created one of the most popular genres in Western Literature, which is referred to as Gothic Literature. The Gothic literature genre began with the publication of Horace Walpole's novel entitled, "The Castle of Otranto" in 1765 (Gothic Experience 2003). The term "Gothic" connotes the "medieval style" that Walpole uses in his novel (Guran 1999). Elements of Gothic literature that is evident in Walpole's novel includes the elements of terror or horror, fear, strong emotions, and the pursuit of the protagonist for or against evil. "The Castle of Otranto" is a novel that focuses around the life of Manfred, Prince of Otranto, and his obsession in prolonging his power in his kingdom through his sons. Manfred's eternal pursuit for power and dominance is evident in the conflict that happens between him and the people in his castle, wherein he tries to capture Isabella and marry him to bear his/her sons after his son, Conrad, met an untimely death. Manfred's evil design on Isabella is interspersed with magic and terror, as he tried to pursue Isabella despite the pain and suffering that he brings to his wife, Hippolita, and daughter, Matilda.
Similarly, the novel, "The Monk," written by Matthew Lewis in 1796, is about the monk named Ambrosio, who struggles to resist temptation in the character of Matilda despite his worldly desires about her. "The Monk" is a novel that discusses how Ambrosio, a renowned ad staunch follower of God, had succumbed to the powers of evil because of his own weakness: evidently, the call of flesh and desire became more powerful than his faith and resistance to evil works and actions. "The Monk" also uses magic in the story, especially in portraying the evil force that Ambrosio subsisted to as he faces persecution because of his sins to the people and to his faith.
These two novels both have protagonists that are contrast to the typical "hero" of a novel. Manfred and Ambrosio represent the archetypal form of a main character and protagonist in literature, and both novels have stories that are dark and evil in its nature, especially since the worst of human actions and behavior are discussed and depicted. The use of magic is also an essential tool in depicting the element of evil in both novels, and this paper will analyze how magic is utilized in both novels in developing the characters of the protagonist as they descend and succumb to their worldly needs and desires. Magic will be discussed as a force that led to Manfred and Ambrosio's downfall in "The Castle of Otranto" and "The Monk," respectively. Passages from both novels will be used as proof/evidence of assertions and analysis that will be included in the following texts of this paper.
The first analysis will be on Manfred's character in "The Castle of Otranto." In the novel, magic is utilized as a useful force in restraining Manfred from committing his evil ways. Magic and the supernatural are also utilized, according to an article by Paul Baines, as "indicators of human crimes and psychological state" of Manfred's the main character in the novel. In using magic as an indicator of human crimes and Manfred's psychological state, Walpole describes a remarkable event in Chapter 1, wherein Conrad, Manfred's son, was killed by an enormous helmet and was crushed underneath it. Walpole describes this moment as in indirect existence of magic in Manfred's life: "...he beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever made for human being..." This passage shows the absurdity of the existence of an enormous helmet that accidentally fell on his son, just as he was engaged to be married to Isabella. This event is an important turn in the novel, since the readers become knowledgeable about Manfred's objectives of letting Conrad marry Isabella, and his eventual death by an enormous helmet, which one peasant "observed that the miraculous helmet was exactly like that on the figure in black marble of Alfonso the Good." By killing Conrad, the enormous helmet, a magical existence and thing in the novel, prevents Manfred's reign as the Prince of Otranto from continuing. This bears an important relevance at the end of the novel, wherein it will be revealed that Manfred is not the rightful heir to the throne, but the poor young man Theodore, who is a descendant of Alfonso the Good.
Magic is also used to indicate Manfred's psychological state, which becomes apparent when he volunteered himself to marry Isabella in order to bar him sons that will become heirs to his throne. Isabella's refusal to marry Manfred angered him, and tried to pursue and force her against her wishes. However, magic and the supernatural intervened in Manfred's evil design on Isabella, as is illustrated in the following passage: "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 backwards and forwards in a tempestuous manner, and accompanied with a hollow and rustling sound." This passage shows how magic tries to terrorize Manfred and stop him from pursuing Isabella, who is in imminent danger with Manfred. This disruption caused by magic (unexplainable phenomena) has helped Isabella to escape from Manfred, and sought the sanctuary of a church as her hiding place.
More importantly, in the last part of the novel, magic is used to reveal the truth about the identity of the true heir to the Castle of Otranto. When Manfred had mistaken his daughter Matilda as Isabella, and mistakenly killed her, a magical apparition surfaced for all of the people of the kingdom to see, and proclaimed that the rightful heir to the throne is not Manfred and his clan, but Theodore, who is actually the grandson of Alfonso, who appeared in the first part of the novel as the 'enormous helmet' that killed Manfred's son Conrad. In proving Theodore's authenticity as the true heir to the throne, the "form of Alfonso" appeared, and declared, "Behold in Theodore the true heir of Alfonso!' said the vision: And having pronounced those words, accompanied by a clap of thunder, it ascended solemnly towards heaven..." This event in Chapter 5 shows how magic is used by Walpole as an effective tool in the discovery of the truth and turning a wrongdoing into something right, giving justice to Theodore's clan, and punishing the evils of Manfred's family.
While magic is used as a useful force in "The Castle of Otranto," magic is used as a force of evil in "The Monk." Magic and its use in the novel become apparent in the last chapter of the novel, wherein Ambrosio and Matilda are being persecuted by their society and the Church because of the sinful acts they have committed. Ambrosio, as the main character in the story, is portrayed initially as a "saintly" monk, and Lewis illustrates him as a man who "...has never been known to transgress a single rule of his order; The smallest stain is not to be discovered upon his character; and He is reported to be so strict an observer of Chastity, that He knows not in what consists the difference of Man and Woman. The common People therefore esteem him to be a Saint.'" This passage is an important revelation to the readers, since in the latter part of the novel, the readers will become acquainted with the sudden changes in Ambrosio's character as he become immersed in his sinfulness and worldly needs and desires.
Ambrosio's change in character happened when he met Matilda, who is portrayed in the novel as the…