Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Ronald Schroeder

Relational Format



This thesis evaluates the roles women play in Gothic fiction, specifically Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Lewis’s The Monk, and Stoker’s Dracula. In order to gather information on this topic, I first read eleven novels fi*om the genre of Gothic fiction. The following texts are the novels which Dr. Schroeder and I selected for me to read: Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Radcliffe’s The Italian, Lev^s’s The Monk, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer, Stoker’s Dracula, Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, and King’s Salem’s Lot. After having read these novels, I decided topic and chose three books on which to focus. Then, I did research and read a number of secondary sources that discussed my three primary texts. I on a took notes on the relevant material and wrote my paper from my notes and from my own views on the novels. I found that the female characters in Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto have no control over their own lives. The daughters, Matilda and Isabella, cannot decide who they want to marry, or even if they want to marry at all. Similarly, the mother, Hippolita, does not have any say about her own future or the futures of her two children, Conrad and Matilda. Finally, the men in the novel, Manfred and Frederic, treat the women in thenlives as property (or as a means to an end), not as people. In The Monk, I found that Lewis depicts female desire and draws attention to the difficult situations in which women of his time often found themselves. Lewis also draws a distinction between “permissible” desire and “insatiable” desire for “inappropriate” objects. He tells the stories of women, such as Agnes and Marguerite, who experience appropriate desire and women, such as Donna Rodolpha, whose passion is unquenchable. Finally, in Stoker’s Dracula, I found that Stoker addresses the Victorian struggle between traditional, “separate spheres” roles for women and more progressive, “New Woman” roles for women. Through the character of Mina, he depicts a woman who is unsure about the changing gender roles but who is also willing to step into the man’s sphere of the “working world.” Through Lucy, Stoker portrays a woman who does not attempt to enter the working world but who is a “New Woman” when it comes to her sexual liberation. In Stoker’s Dracula, the men seem more willing to accept Mina, who can help them in the working world, than Lucy with her sexual appetite. In the end, I concluded that, through the female characters in their respective works, Walpole, Lewis, and Stoker express their concerns about the oppressed position women experience in their societies and the lack of control women possess over their own destinies.

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