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Awkward Scene in The Castle of Otranto by Walpole


One awkward scene in the novel was where Manfred stabbed his own daughter Matilda when she was out with Theodore at St. Nicholas church.

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Manfred was in love with Isabel, but he thought that she loved another man called Theodore. As a result, Manfred had deployed a man to spy on Theodore. One day, the man reported to his Lord, Manfred that Theodore was at the church with a woman. Without much thought, Manfred concluded that the woman was Isabel. Isabel had earlier on showed signs of disinterest in Manfred, leading him to suspect that she behaved so due to her love for Theodore. Besides, Isabel’s father, Frederic, had acted in a disrespectful manner towards him.

On arriving at the church, Manfred walked across the altar searching for them, although he could not see clearly, as it was dark and the moonlight was faint. He then heard some whispers and concluded that they came from the people he was after. Immediately, he took his knife and stabbed haphazardly. Matilda yelled loudly and when he heard her voice, Manfred realized that it was not Isabel but her own daughter that he had stabbed. He felt guilty but Matilda forgave him. Even at that desperate time, Theodore consoled Matilda and begged her to marry him. However, she passed on before the marriage could take place.


This scene is awkward because Walpole does not introduce to us or tell us anything about Matilda and Theodore’s there before. This part catches the reader by surprise. In fact, the reader blindly thinks that Manfred’s assumption that the woman was Isabel will be correct because previously we had known that Isabel was attracted to Theodore.

Unlike modern novels, which give clear background stories, Gothic novels hardly introduce characters or present the reader with a clear picture of the events that spur certain incidences in the novel. In other words, Gothic novels have insufficiently developed characters and plots. The only character types that Gothic novels concentrate on are good and evil. In this novel, Walpole depicts Manfred as evil on one hand and his daughter Matilda as good on the other hand. This is clearly demonstrated where Matilda forgives her cruel father even after stabbing her with his dagger.

What is the Novel (as a work in development) still Struggling to Do? What are the Concepts that the Novel is working on Developing at that Time?

Walpole, through his novel, struggles to include more fantasy in his work by developing less realistic literature. Before his work, the idea of realism in literature was prevalent. People wrote books with only real-life situations and paid little attention to mystery, awe, and fantasy. At that time, literature was boring to read as it only included certainties.

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Walpole decided to bridge this gap through his first Gothic novel “The Castle of Otranto” by using less realistic situations that included imaginations and feelings. His work used ancient fantasies to tell a new tale in a way that satisfied the need for awe, mystery, and fear. In a wider perspective, Walpole’s work largely influenced the growth of other genres like science and mystical fiction.

Walpole’s novel was set in a region with a powerful Catholic superstition and it, therefore, represented a shift from classical order to more fancy literature filled with imaginations and realist tenets, a progress that was consistent with the Romantic Movement. Walpole merged both the previous and new romance in his work. He borrowed the use of superstitions from early works but maintained the natural aspects of characters such as talking, thinking, and acting. His objective here was to make characters behave as they would in real-life situations, although this objective did not succeed fully.

Nearly all characters in “The Castle of Otranto” are schematic. Every character holds typical attributes and a particular prime element that shows absurdity. Characters in some cases act and talk. Walpole expresses his remarks about the characters, but most of their qualities are evident in their actions and dialogues. Lastly, most characters do not develop, and this is typical of all Gothic novels.

Walpole, through “The Castle of Otranto” endeavored to change the didactic purpose of contemporary literature. During his days, entertainment was not a major function of literature. Rather, the major function of literature was to depict realistic settings of life. Novelists of that time adhered to the ideas of the Realist Movement, which followed the views of Aristotle and Horace. These two philosophers held that literature should reflect real-life situations. Nevertheless, Walpole broke all these rules when he wrote a novel full of powers of fancy and imagination.


Walpole faced many struggles while developing his novel titled “The Castle of Otranto.” He struggled because he wanted to include the concept of fantasy in his novel. Realists, who thought that literature should only contain real-life situations, mainly challenged his efforts. He, however, managed to develop his novel by integrating both fantasy and realist tenets.

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