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Last Updated on September 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 494

The novella Nightmare Abbey is a piece of Gothic literature written as an attempt to mock the conventions in writing that were popular in Peacock's time. Because of this, it has clear themes and an exaggerated plot that serve to parody the Romantic literature that was prevalent in the early nineteenth century.

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The Parody of the Melancholy Hero

Gothic literature was typified by the inclusion of melancholy or macabre elements, especially in the disposition of its heroes. Nightmare Abbey exaggerates this convention to the point of absurdity. For example, there are characters with names like Raven and Deathshead, whom Mr. Glowry employs in order to utterly immerse himself in a world of despondency. This strange predilection not only illustrates a complete obsession with the appearance of (or appearing to be) melancholy but is also completely absurd—as the names of servants have no real impact on the disposition of their master. Thus the oversaturation of the idea of melancholy reaches such a high degree in this novella that the subject becomes ridiculous and darkly humorous.

The Irony of Misanthropy

Central to the events of the novella is a pervasive kind of misanthropy, which is also characteristic of Gothic literature. For example, there is the poet Mr. Cypress, whose poetry revolves mainly around his distaste for humanity and all of its negative attributes. Furthermore, when the main character, Scythrop, decides to write a treatise on how to save the human race, it largely revolves around changing it completely or placing it under the absolute control of the Illuminati.

These characters reject the idea of inherent good in humanity and are utterly convinced that they know how the state of humanity can be righted. This, however, reveals the central irony—that, in perceiving an evil in humanity and wishing to change it, these characters have rejected participation in humanity and are therefore unable to enact the changes they wish to see. Thus the idea of...

(The entire section contains 494 words.)

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