Discussion Questions: The Mysteries of Udolpho
Greetings, Challengers! The next two weeks we’ll be reading (and swooning over, no doubt) The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. The discussion post will be up next Thursday, July 1, and, as per usual, all participants will be entered to win a Penguin Clothbound Classic. But for now, here are a few things to think about whilst traversing Udolpho:
1. Considering Montoni, what do you make of the trend in English literature to use Italians as mysterious, malevolent villains? You’ll remember that this device was also later used by Wilkie Collins in his The Woman in White and Henry James in Portrait of a Lady. Since France is the traditional enemy of England, why do you think so many English authors turned to Italy for their villains?
2. On a related note, why do you think Radcliffe chose to make her protagonist (and all the “good guys” in the story) French? Radcliffe herself was English and writing during the French Revolution, a time when Britons as a group were even more appalled than usual at the goings on in France. It was viewed by Britons as this cesspool of sin and confusion, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Radcliffe would choose to make her characters insane French people rather than upstanding Britons.
3. Let’s also take a moment to talk about the form of the novel. It’s gothic, all right, but did you find Radcliffe’s narrative style effective? She keeps a lot of things mysterious and doesn’t reveal very much at all, leaving the reader and Emily to freak out more about unknowns than necessarily any proven evil occurring in the story. Was this a good move? Or do you think there is a way she could have made the story equally eerie without necessarily keeping the reader completely in the dark?
And, as per usual, please do tell me your favorite and least favorite parts of this book! Also, if anyone wants to join me in discussing the novel’s uses as a historic document and source, I’m always up for that. :)
See you on July 2 for discussion!