The Italian - gothic conventions Essay

This essay has a total of 1443 words and 6 pages.

The Italian - gothic conventions

Gothic literature changes from age to age to reflect the current socio-cultural situation
of the time. Stories such as The Italian, The Monk, Vathek and writers such as Poe,
Carter, Radcliffe and Shelleyt have presented facets of the Gothic. The Gothic is the
representation of the darker side of awareness, a realm of neurosis and morbidity whereby
it is a fantasy world that reveals secrets of the human personality.

In this excerpt of The Italian, there are typical Gothic conventions of its age. From the
setting, there is the idea of the Sublime in which it is a reflection of a situation of
vastness in an imaginative, fantastical visual experience. The "grandeur" and the
"proportions" in the "memorial" invoked Ellena's awe and excess of emotions due to its
majestic, grand and infinite characteristics that seems to overpower and pervade the
environment for "everywhere prevailed". From the imagery of infinite "proportions" and
"mass", man is seen as insignificant. The idea of the Sublime is further exemplified in
Vathek, of the "immeasurable plain" that reveled in its "infinity" in which it had
"overpowered" man until "he fell prostrate on his face". The limitations of man are
magnified in contrast to the environment thus challenging the senses and emphasizing the
insignificance of humanity. Ellena's awe and appreciation of nature overwhelms her thus it
rendered the preconceived notion that humanity is in control of the world and destiny as
obsolete. Thus man is left hopeless and impotent. This idea of the irrelevance of man in
comparison to nature is typically Gothic for it undermines man's state universally.

A recurrent characteristic is the internalization of decay and destruction. The setting
itself reflected the "interior" of the villa in which it was projected as the "chamber of
ruins". The colour of the villa reflects the hollowness and the obscurity of the
character. It foretells the idea that we cannot escape corruption for it is pervasive from
the physical aspect to the intangible sense of "gloom". This metaphorical sense of
internalization of decay is seen in Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher in which the
destruction of the Usher family is manifested in the "melancholy House of Usher". Decay is
manifested from its physical form to the innermost intrusive intangible form. Thus when
corruption comes from deep inside in its most basic or innate form it is inescapable. Thus
when the "passage terminated" it seem to project that all the internalization led to
nothing and that in the end it is just the oblivion.

There is a play on "light" in which the "partial light" of the "evening rays" whereby
"gleam fell" seem to project something that is not whole, not totally pure. It signifies
the idea in which it is neither positive nor enlightening that goes with typical
connotations to "light" but a dim, suppressed presence that is seemingly cryptic and
sinister. The lack of strong, defined "light" in which the "gleam fell" seem to represent
failing hope, future or life. The idea of "light" seem to reflect Ellena's clarity of
thought in which its insufficient amount seem to reflect her confusion in which the
"partial light" signified her unclear or partial understanding and vision. The "evening
rays" projects the time of dusk in which it is the twilight, the oblivion whereby nothing
is definite. It reflected Ellena's current state of consciousness whereby fantasy fades
into reality and the distinction between both states is blurred. This play on "light" and
the protagonist is present in Poe's, The Masque of the Red Death in which Prince
Prospero's castle had "no light of any kind emanating" but only through "fire that
projected its rays through the tinted glass" thus the perception of light in The Masque of
the Red Death is skewed and unnatural. It reflected the lack of "light", purity or
nobleness in Prince Prospero's character thus uncovering the dark, "gloomy", decay it had
degenerated into.

The play of "light" is connected to the failure of reason or logic in which Ellena could
not discern reality from the imagined. She tried vainly to "ascertain the truth" or
rationalize her experience to the portrayal of the sublimity of the Gothic before her.
Ellena even thought her "imagination" could have "deluded her". Her attempts to
intellectualize failed and everything she "perceived" is not certain. This failure of
reason and logic is further exemplified in the Pit and the Pendulum in which no matter how
many times the narrator escaped certain death due to his "human resolution" and
"understanding" he was eventually saved by "an outstretched arm" thus affirming that his
ability to survive was not due to his intellect and will but reliant to luck and fate.
Thus it proposes the Gothic idea that no matter how innovative and determined a person is
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