Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Class Divisions in the Castle of Otranto

I thought it was really interesting how Walpole adressed class divisions throughout the novel. First, he says that Matilda cannot associate with Theodore the peasant because she is noble and he is not. Later, however, when it is discovered that he is "of noble birth" it's okay that they get married. What interests me, however, is the fact that they associated virtue with class.

According to the footnotes, on "discovering the mark of the bloody arrow," there was a conservative view that "status and inner merit are linked, and that gentility will shine through in spite of circumstances." So basically, if you are of noble blood you will be a good person, while everyone else is morally incapable of the same virtue because they are naturally of the lower class. The book does, of course, show that the transition from peasant to King is possible IF you have the right blood—in a way this allows someone to rise from rags to riches—yet at the same time it says that moral improvement isn't really possible, since you are born with a certain type of virtue that seems to be predetermined.

1 comment:

  1. It's particuarly interesting then, that Theodore is distinguished as the son and true King by a "bloody" arrow. The firm belief that different classes posess inherent characterisitcs that will reveal themselves if ever there is some sort of conflict of order. So when a man of lesser rank over-reaches his class status, the natural order takes over. In this extraordinary set of supernatural circumstances, the resolution lies in this blood and natural order of social classes. So does blood and class bring order out of chaos? It would seem that Theodore is able to literally solve this problem because of his bloodline, but he solves it well because of the attributes that come along with that lineage.