Horror Fiction and its Relationship to The Mysteries of Udolpho Summary

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay

The Mysteries of Udolpho would hold up in today’s society as a horror fiction book. Several contemporary authors agree that there are important aspects to creating great horror fiction. The Mysteries of Udolpho includes different aspects of this genre. The incredible use of descriptive language allows the reader to become fully engrossed in the story. The use of the language helps to create a mental picture of the scenes being played out. The development of the villain is essential. This adversary plays an important role. Also, incorporating an invasion of the reader’s comfort levels by adding elements of fear, mystery, surprise and suspense. Each of these elements, which several contemporary authors agree are important to creating a good horror fiction story, are included in this story.

Horror Fiction is very much misrepresented in today’s day and age. The mention of this topic instantly has people thinking about Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. This is unfortunate. Horror does not have to be about monsters, blood and gore. It does not need to make you jump out of your seat. Horror just needs to feed off of the readers “deepest terrors by putting life’s most frightening and perplexing things—death, evil, supernatural powers or creatures, the afterlife, witchcraft—at the center of attention.”(literaryterms.net). According to the Horror Writers Association, horror is an invasion of our comfort levels. (Horror.org).

Horror fiction upsets apple carts, burns old buildings, and stampedes the horses; it questions and yearns for answers, and it takes nothing for granted. It’s not safe, and it probably rots your teeth, too. Horror fiction can be a guide through a nightmare world, entered freely and by the reader’s own will. And since horror can be many, many things and go in many, many directions, that guided nightmare ride can shock, educate, illuminate, threaten, shriek, and whisper before it lets the readers loose. (Twilight Zone Magazine, Oct 1986).

Many of these things that show elements of horror, can be found in most literary pieces. Horror is a genre, but it transcends genre. Many great novels have something in them that could classify as horror. Examples of this would be the fear of death in The Fault in our Stars, or “beating scenes in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”(Hoffman). The concept of horror is as old as time. “ People have been telling ghost stories for as long as people were willing to listen.”(Hilbert) Horror fiction as a genre has been around for hundreds of years.

There are many elements that are common to this genre. There are a few of these that directly relate to this topic. For instance, William C Robinson says that “ Setting may be described in some detail if much of the story takes place in one location”. Actually, several authors agree that using descriptive language and well chosen details have the power to heighten the experience of the reader. The inclusion of descriptive language allows the reader to become more engrossed in the story because they have the ability to “see” what the author is talking about. This type of language also helps the reader to understand the characters and identify with their emotions. Incorporating a villain is another element of horror fiction that some authors feel is necessary in writing horror fiction.

The inclusion of a malevolent character with strong motivation for their actions has the ability to keep readers interested and wondering what disturbing action will take place next. The most important element of horror fiction is fear. There are critics that have said that when you are engrossed in horror fiction it is similar to reading about your worst nightmares. The ability to evoke a sense to fear or terror in the reader is useful in creating a tension that keeps the readers captivated and wanting more.

Horror fiction is important. Not only does horror penetrate the readers levels of comfort, it also allows the reader to enter a world that is similar, yet very different from their own. Horror permits the reader to face their fears, confront their terrors, be in a scary situation or an extraordinary environment. The reader, however, is able to close the book and return to their “normal” world. Some of the earliest writings in this genre are Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel The Count of Otranto, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein, and Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror story Dracula. These classics were fundamental in the formation of the genre of horror fiction. The aforementioned classics have had a profound impact on some of the greatest authors of this genre.

The Mysteries of Udolpho incorporates some incredibly descriptive language which helps the reader to enter the fantastic world of Emily St. Aubert. Good description is an aspect of horror fiction that several authors agree is quite important. This story has so many beautifully written examples of this that choosing which to discuss is a difficult task. The very first paragraph includes some of these brilliant illustrations presented by Radcliff. “majestic Pyrenees… veiled in cloud…vapours rolled along… gleamed through the blue tinge of air…frowned with forests of gloomy pine”(Radcliffe 1.1).

Radcliffe describes Emily’s first impression of the castle Udolpho “lighted up by the setting sun, the gothic greatness of its features, and its mouldering walls of dark grey stone, rendered it a gloomy and sublime object.”(Radcliffe 2.5). Radcliffe’s movingly expressive language has a great impact on the power of the scenes presented. Steve French says that good description is used to show the reader the mood, pace, and/or the theme of each scene. French’s ideas are relevant to the description of Udolpho. The first depiction of the castle leaves the reader with the picture of a castle that, although it has a sense of grandeur, it is dismal and gloomy. There is no mistaking the way that Valancourt feels about Emily in the following phrase:

He frequently fixed his eyes pensively on her countenance, which expressed with so much animation the taste and energy of her mind; and when he spoke again, there was a peculiar tenderness in the tone of his voice, that defeated any attempt to conceal his sentiments ( Radcliffe 1.4).

Stephen King says that description “creates a sensory reality for the reader”(King 163). The phrase regarding Valancourt shows us that this is true. The vocabulary used in this phrase permits the reader to feel the affection that Valancourt has for Emily. Description, along with carefully chosen details can add so much to a story; it has the ability to allow the reader to empathize with characters, it permits the readers to mentally see a picture of a scene, and it also has the capability of building a frightening sense of horror that can be quite unsettling.

Much contemporary advice on horror fiction states that there should be a villain of some sort in every horror story. Steve French devotes a large section of his book , Horror Writing 101:How to Write a Horror Novel to this topic. Literaryterms.net describes a villain as “ the bad guy, the one who comes up with diabolical plots to somehow cause harm or ruin.” (literaryterms,.net) Several authors agree that there are certain characteristics that most villains share. Drago says that villains should be powerful, intelligent immoral, wounded and determined. Villains are an important aspect of horror fiction.

If we had no villain in the story we would be unable to fully understand the dangers of the protagonist. The villain in The Mysteries of Udolpho is Montoni. Montoni is the kind of man you would not want to meet in a dark alley. Emily has him pegged from the beginning. She fears him from the first moment they meet. “Emily felt admiration, but not the admiration that leads to esteem; for it was mixed with a degree of fear she knew not exactly wherefore.” (Radcliffe 1.12) Montoni shares many of the characteristics listed by Drago. Montoni is a man of power, he has a way of making certain things go his way.

Montoni is also intelligent, he uses his intelligence for the wrong things but he shows us that he has it in several ways. Montoni is a man with no morals. He pretends to be a nobleman to get Madame Cheron to marry him. He does some very unscrupulous things. Montoni promises Emily to two men to whom he owes money. He tries to get Madame Cheron to sign over her fortune, when she refuses he locks her up and keeps her from everyone,he is determined to get what he wants and will literally stop at nothing to make it happen.

Montoni is motivated by greed. The reason that he married Madame Cheron was because he thought that she had money and that he could share in her fortune. He associates with powerful people, “the famous captain Utaldo, with whom, as well as with some of the other chiefs, he was personally acquainted'(Radcliffe 2.2). The Senate even considered him “a very dangerous person”(Radcliffe 4.8). Montoni is a formidable villain. His characteristics are not all inclusive to what Drago mentions, but he does share most of these qualities. Montoni is cruel and cold hearted, this quality along with the others mentioned combine to help create his villainous evilness.

Fear, mystery and elements of isolation are all elements of horror fiction according to some of the greatest writers of this genre. The Merriam Webster dictionary describes horror as an “intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust, or a thing causing such a feeling” (French 100) Writers of horror fiction use basic and common fears of society “that are both universally taboo and that also respond to historically and culturally specific anxieties.”(Grant 4) There are several aspects of The Mysteries of Udolpho that incorporate elements of fear. Fear and mystery are shown throughout the story, from the time Emily arrives at the castle until Valencourt has to meet with the Count. During her stay at Udolpho emily encounters many seemingly supernatural events that add to her fear. The fear is not always readily seen and sometimes it is mystery that causes the fear.

Generally people are afraid of the unknown, adding the mystery of something to a horror story creates an added element of fear. Perry says that an element of mystery keeps the reader intrigued.(Perry) The picture with the black veil is a great example of some of the mystery that Radcliffe incorporated into her story. As a reader, of course, you are wondering what is behind the veil. It does intrigue the reader to continue to read in order to get this information. The black veil is mysterious because we, as readers, know that it is covering a picture, but it is late in the story before we understand what was behind the veil. The thought that it is concealing something adds not only the element of mystery but also creates some fear of the unknown and curiosity, not only in Emily but the readers as well. Furthermore, there is the mystery of the music.

The first mention of Emily hearing unexplained music is when she goes to the fishing house to get her lute. As she approached the fishing house she could hear “the tones of the instrument”(Radcliffe 80). She hears the mysterious music again when her father was ill. The music with the unknown origin helps to increase the element of mystery in the story. The door to her apartment with the lock on the outside that remained unlocked for a time added mystery also, especially when Emily went back and found the door to be locked. The element of isolation causes some fear also. P.S. Hoffman writes that “isolation is the horror writers delight” The Mysteries of Udolpho incorporates elements of isolation in several ways. Emily is isolated because she is locked up in Udolpho. Emily is in her room and the Count attempts to kidnap her. The feeling of isolation helps the reader to relate to Emily and understand her circumstances.

The Mysteries of Udolpho fits into the horror fiction genre of today The elements of horror fiction that are included in this piece are good description with carefully chosen details, a villain and elements of fear, mystery and isolation. Each of these elements of horror fiction have repeated examples throughout the story. Horror fiction is created to provoke strong emotions in the reader. Readers are allowed to enter into a world full of extraordinary circumstances that allows them to confront some of their fears and terrors and have the ability to leave this world just by closing the book. C.M. Humphries says that good horror fiction “spoils how it’s constructed, still holds several mysteries, keeps my suspense based on fears, and surprises me by going beyond tradition to create new views on horror and the way it can scare someone.”(Humphries)


Cite this paper

Horror Fiction and its Relationship to The Mysteries of Udolpho Summary. (2021, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/horror-fiction-and-its-relationship-to-the-mysteries-of-udolpho/



How is fear used in The Mysteries of Udolpho?
Fear is used as a tool to create suspense and tension throughout the novel, particularly through the use of Gothic elements such as supernatural occurrences and eerie settings. The protagonist, Emily, is also frequently subjected to fear-inducing situations, which serve to heighten the emotional impact of the story.
How is mysteries of Udolpho a gothic novel?
The Mysteries of Udolpho is a gothic novel because it contains many of the elements of the gothic genre, including dark and haunted settings, suspenseful plots, and characters who are haunted by their pasts.
How is Udolpho described?
Udolpho is described as "a dark and gloomy place" that is "full of terrors."
We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out