The Castle of Otranto

by Horace Walpole
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Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 254

One theme of the novel is that God's providence is different from magic. Magic and superstition are powerless and to be disregarded. It is often the lower class servants who are fooled into believing in superstition and who must be set straight by their upperclass employers.

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However, one ignores God's heavenly signposts at one's peril. One of Manfred's problems, and an emblem of his depravity, is his inability to read or heed God's portents. For example, when paintings move to point Manfred to certain events that need to occur—and when one figure in a painting begins to look like Theodore, suggesting he is the rightful heir—Manfred ignores these heavenly signals. He also ignores the blood drops that come out of the statue of Alfonso the Good. By not responding to divine guidance, Manfred seals his doom.

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Latest answer posted April 18, 2015, 3:01 pm (UTC)

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Inheritance is another theme of the novel. Central to the story is the question of who is the rightful heir to Otranto after Conrad is killed by the helmet. Manfred is desperate to produce a blood heir to the estate, and he misses the signs that Theodore is the destined lord.

Another theme of the novel is that good triumphs over evil. Manfred and his daughter, Matilda, an innocent he mistakenly kills, both pay for the misdeeds of their ancestors. Yet even Theodore, although he triumphs, is touched by the evil that has descended on the castle. He mourns Matilda, and marries Isabella somberly, uniting with her because she is one who can understand his pain.

Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 229

The Castle of Otranto, a novel by Horace Walpole, has a fairly straightforward narrative despite a couple of plot twists at the end. The overall theme of the novel is that righteousness, or justice, will always triumph over greed. The antagonist of the novel, Manfred, craves power and wants to attain a higher position in society by trying to marry off his son to the princess of Otranto, Isabella.

When the son is killed, Manfred decides that he himself will marry Isabella in order to continue his plan and to have another son. In this part of the story, the readers begin to see a recurring theme: the objectification of the young Isabella as a means to gain power. Isabella is desired not because of love, but because she is a figurative key to the kingdom. To Manfred, it does not matter whether it is his son or himself who marries Isabella.

The two plot twists at the end of the story emphasize the overall theme of the novel: justice. The peasant at the beginning of the story, who was unjustly imprisoned for allegedly being a magician, turns out to be the rightful heir to the throne. Likewise, Manfred inadvertently kills his daughter in a scheme to trick Isabella's father into allowing him to marry Isabella. In the end, Manfred has lost two children in his quest for power.

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