Study Guide

The Mysteries of Udolpho Man and the Natural World

By Ann Radcliffe

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Man and the Natural World

Even though all that Gothic stuff is prevalent throughout The Mysteries of Udolpho, one theme can give the scary stuff a run for its money. Em's all about gazing at the landscape and getting all moony over glowworms. But she's not just taking a no-filter Instagram picture. Nope, she really wants to engage with the natural world and contemplate human existence in relation to nature.

When Em or St. Aubert give us a description of the French countryside, all their other (many) problems seem to melt away. That's because they realize that their existence on earth is a flash in the pan compared to the ancient mountains and trees. Em gets a sublime feeling whenever she spaces out in nature.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Why is St. Aubert so fascinated with the natural world? How does he pass this fascination down to Emily?
  2. Does Em view herself as part of the natural world or separate from it? How can you tell?
  3. Does Udolpho (the castle) count as part of the natural world, even if it's man-made? Is there even a distinction between nature and culture?

Chew on This

The real scary stuff of the book is all located in nature. The natural world is much more terrifying than any lingering human presence.

In a time when nature was seen as being fully explainable (during the Enlightenment), Radcliffe presents a picture of nature as a mysterious force.

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