Textual Representation in Sicilian Romance, Essay Example

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Essay

In the novel, “A Sicilian Romance” by Ann Radlcliffe, the author creates the social role of women during the Gothic Era (1800-1850) of literature, which was a part of the Romanticism age, through textual representation.  The story is based on horror, romance, desire and tragedy.  Within these topics of the novel, the treatment of women during the Gothic Era is represented.  The social role of women during the Gothic period is particularly represented through the character Julia, who is one of the daughters of Ferdinand, the fifth marquis of the Mazzini castle. Ferdinand, we find out in Chapter I, retreats from the Mazzini castle immediately following his second marriage and takes only his son with him.  He leaves his daughters at the castle, where they live and grow into young women.  Emilia and Julia are left in the care of a madam who cares for and educates them.  In addition, it is briefly mentioned that the birth mother of Emily and Julia had passed; therefore, readers are aware that the girls have lost their biological mother.  Julia’s father, Ferdinand, returns periodically to the castle and the relationship between them continues to develop to the reader. Throughout the novel their relationship illustrates how Julia deals with the male figure as the dominant person in society, as well as the figure that chooses what the right and wrong choices in life are for women.  In addition, Julia realizes that the male figure dominates the choices because they are self-serving.

Julia is the youngest sister and daughter.  The author describes this character as being lively and extremely sensible with a warm and generous temper. The author also indicates that the Julia gets “quickly irritated and quickly appeased” (Radcliffe).  In comparison to the description of her sister, Emilia, the author describes Julia as a genius.  “Her imagination was ardent, and her mind early exhibited symptoms of genius”(Radcliffe).  Although we begin to see the gender inequality between men and women in this novel, we do realize that a woman wrote this novel because there is also textual representation that shows the capability of women, in regard to their intellect and talent.  For instance, the author describes Julia as a genius, but during that Era, no man would ever refer to a woman as a genius, as women were unequal compared to men and the men were in charge since they were the “smart” individuals.  This therefore, builds the character of Julia, as just as smart as a male figure during that time period.  The description of Julia’s character sets the story for the characterization of Julia as having a mind of her own and full of spirit, which during the Gothic Era was mostly likely unheard of.  “Julia, was of a more lively cast” (Radcliffe 2).  The author already mentions Julia’s intellect and further describes her character as having a temper with intellect.  The reader then assumes that a temper in a woman character will be more disobedient to the instructions from a male dominant figure, further supporting the notion that Julia has a mind of her own.

In the novel, the textual representation of women being inferior is illustrated tremendously when Julia meets the character Hippolitus.  She falls deeply for Hippolitus and wants to marry him.  In Chapter III, the focus is on the aftermath of Julia meeting Hippolitus and the out comings of their love for each other.  The author describes Julia as being extremely mortified by the discovery of her love for Hippolitus.  The reader knows that she is only mortified because she is afraid of her father and the consequences that he would bestow upon her if he were to find out.  In Chapter III her father sends for Julia and demands that she is to marry the Duke of Luovo.  Ferdinand states, “The Duke de Luovo has solicited your hand.  An alliance so splendid was beyond my expectation. You will receive the distinction with the gratitude it claims, and prepare for the celebration of the nuptials (Radcliffe)”.   Ferdinand speaks about her affair with Hippolitus and tells her to overcome her “feminine weakness”.  Julia, unlike most women during that time, stands up for herself.  She exclaims, “O! Sir forbear to enforce authority upon a point where to obey you would be worse than death; if, indeed, to obey you were possible (Radcliffe)”.  Julia lets her father know that she will not obey him.  She further exclaims, “Pardon me, my lord,’ she replied, ‘my distress is, alas! unfeigned. I cannot love the duke.’–‘Away!’ interrupted the marquis, ‘nor tempt my rage with objections thus childish and absurd.’–‘Yet hear me, my lord,’ said Julia, tears swelling in her eyes, ‘and pity the sufferings of a child, who never till this moment has dared to dispute your commands (Radcliffe).”   In this case, Ferdinand has Hippolitus killed and his body removed.  The reader can then assume that this consequence was extremely harsh, especially as a consequence toward someone’s own daughter.  We think of a father wanting the best for his daughter and wanting her to be happy; however, in this case, the begging and tears that swell in Julia’s eyes do not even have an effect on Ferdinand’s decision.  The outright defiance that Julia portrayed towards her father, the dominant figure, led him to undergo his punishment toward Julia. He would not let up until Julia obeyed him and married the individual whom he ordered her to marry.  In addition, Ferdinand does not respect his daughter for her intellect, independence or courage for standing up for her beliefs.  This indicates that only the fact that Julia disobeyed her father is taken into consideration and also supports the notion that women were not allowed to disobey the rules of a man.

The interesting ending to this particular subject in the novel is when Julia flees the castle in order to escape being forced into marrying the duke.  This represents not only her escape from a forced marriage, but an escape from continuing as the daughter of Ferdinand.  Julia understands her role as a daughter and woman and knows that she needs to escape.  With the help of her brother, Julia escapes the castle.  Instead of her father letting her go so that she can be happy, he and the Duke spend much of their time in search of Julia.  In fact, the duke was relentless.   “The marquis immediately dispatched servants upon the fleetest horses of his stables, with directions to take different routes, and to scour every corner of the island in pursuit of the fugitives (Radcliffe)”.  In addition, while she is running away she ends up in the dungeons of the Mazzini castle and finds her mother, who she thought had been dead for years.   This further illustrates the representation of women during that time period, especially in regard to powerful male figures.  Ferdinand locked his own wife in a dungeon, the mother of his own children.  Not only does this illustrate how tyrannical Ferdinand was, it illustrates how woman were completely ruled by male figures and had absolutely no voice in their opinions or lives.  Furthermore, it showed the harsh consequences for women who stood up for themselves.  We can assume that Julia took after her mother, as an independent and courageous woman, but also vulnerable and frightened by the dominant male figures in her life; why and how else would the mother be locked in a dungeon for over a decade? 

Works Cited

Radcliffe, A.  A Sicilian Romance, 2002. Blackmask Online.  Web. Retrieved 6/2/12 from:

www.blackmask.com.

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