Morality and Egos in Radcliffe’s The Italian
Morality and Egos in The Italian
The gothic tradition loves to play with the morality of a character and this explains one’s egotistical tendencies. In Radcliffe’s Italian, no matter which side of the morality tree a character stands on, Satan has slipped a little pride in everyone’s apple. The role of doubles begins before Poe popularizes it. Radcliffe works hard to create evil twins and/or corresponding halves to some of the characters in order to demonstrate the power of pride. The gender roles of both male and female characters in The Italian do not always correlate to an archetype. Radcliffe bends not only the gender rules, but also the stature expectations of the reader to show each character’s true moral state and domineering personality through actions the reader would not usually expect.
Some male characters in this book have values that do not draw parallels with their stature in life. For example, Schedoni is a monk, supposedly a loving and caring individual who spreads the word of God. In reality, he conspires with the Marchesa (in a church) to commit a mortal sin, by telling her, “…this girl is put out of the way of committing more mischief…” (173). This action shows his true color, usually green, and through his large ego, this jealous nature reveals itself. If he is secure as a person, these petty grievances against Vivaldi would be just that, petty. Bonarmo’s personality does not correspond to his stature either. He is a servant whose loyalty to his master deserts him. He is too independent and too intelligent to be in servitude to a master whom he does not believe superior to himself. These characters possess too much pride and ego to live in a world where they are not always in co…
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… self indulgence is knowing that she saved a young woman’s life and contributed to her happiness (luckily, Ellena is her daughter).
The characters in this novel entertain conflicting notions of morality and pride. Sometimes, these characteristics are at odds with one another, creating the immoral and “evil” characters. Other times, they cooperate to create realism in these people. The moral characters are good, but still have enough pride to be dignified, yet not arrogant. Sometimes, when the evil twins (or other halves) run amuck, things get out of hand and troubles abound. Though most of the time these troubles spring from the discrepancy between pride and morality, at other points, dignity and morality work hand in hand to create reliable and realistic characters.
Radcliffe, Ann. The Italian. Oxford University Press. 1968.