Form and Content
The Mysteries of Udolpho is the story of a young woman who survives the terrors of life as an unprotected orphan subject to the control of an avaricious aunt and her archvillain husband in Italy and the south of France. The Mysteries of Udolpho takes place in a pseudo-medieval world, a world in which strange music floats on the midnight air, half-seen forms walk through unlit corridors, and danger threatens the heroine at every turn.
One year under legal age, Emily cannot control her own property or her own movements, and she cannot marry the man she loves. Her father extracts a deathbed promise from her that no matter what happens, she will never sell her family home at La Vallée. Her aunt’s property will by law descend to Emily. Montoni’s desire is to force both Emily and Madame Montoni to sign their property over to him. They refuse. Madame Montoni pays for this with her life; Emily holds out until she can no longer. When Montoni is later arrested, the authorities return to her her own estate as well as that of her aunt.
Emily falls in love early on with Valancourt, but their marriage is delayed until the end of the narrative for a variety of reasons. Her aunt disapproves of the courtship because she wishes Emily to marry someone of station—not for Emily’s happiness, but to add to her own position in the world. Madame hastily marries Montoni, who packs up his household in the middle of the night, including his...
(The entire section is 599 words.)