Ann Radcliffe Mystery & Detective Fiction Analysis
The novel was a young genre, not yet a century old, when Ann Radcliffe began writing. She modified both its structure and its themes and established the gothic novel (the novel with a quasi-medieval setting) as a popular form. The first gothic novel, Hugh Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), had fused medieval chivalry and the ghost story, creating a fast-paced, incredible tale that drips with blood as it piles shock on shock. In Radcliffe’s more leisurely novels, which blend the gothic with the sentimental, the psychological effects of incidents take precedence over action. Her own distinctive version of the gothic novel, moralistic and rationalist, requires that sensitive heroines show their worth by their behavior during suspenseful ordeals whose mysteries prove to be rationally explicable. Radcliffe considerably developed the principle of suspense, adapting the techniques of drama to fiction more completely than had yet been achieved in the novel. Moreover, a precursor to the Romantics, she laced her prose with poetry, her own and others’, and she transformed the natural landscape into an appropriate setting for her tales.
The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne
In Radcliffe’s first novel, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789), an unsuccessful, amateurishly plotted tale centered on a hero in the sixteenth century Scottish Highlands, she had not yet found her distinctive style, though she had found her...
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