Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
La Vallee is a physical symbol of the domestic virtues practiced by the St. Aubert family. Its ideal character as a pastoral retreat is emphasized by its contrast with the adjoining estate, which St. Aubert sold to Monsieur Quesnel to settle his father’s debts. Quesnel prefers the city life of Paris to life in the country, and his proposed extravagant renovations, which will entail destroying the natural beauty of the grounds and planting foliage incongruously out of step with the setting, affirm the insensitivity of those not attuned to nature.
For Emily St. Aubert, La Vallee is a reservoir for memories of the last happy days spent with her family. The château symbolizes an innocence that is threatened when her guardian, the villainous Count Montoni, schemes to sell it and pay off his debts.
*Languedoc (lang-gah-DAHK). Mostly wild region in southern France, favored by St. Aubert and Emily. Its vivid colors and breathtaking vistas give rise to spiritual thoughts and veneration of the Great Creator by those sensitive to its sublime beauty. Throughout the novel, Radcliffe contrasts the wholesomeness of this natural world with the artifice of the city and human-made dwellings, most notably the castle Udolpho. Places that look upon the landscape, such as La Vallee and the Château-le-Blanc, are portrayed as serene and free. People who prefer the city to its natural splendor are depicted as insincere and superficial. In this setting Emily enjoys her final moments with her father and meets Valancourt, who proves to be her savior.
Udolpho (oo-DOHLF-oh). Castle in the Apennine Mountains to which Montoni moves Emily, her aunt, and the rest of his entourage following their brief sojourn in Venice. Emily first glimpses it as a “gloomy and sublime object” that seems to absorb ambient light and plunge the surrounding woods into darkness. That gloom is so intense that Emily can only discern parts of the castle in outline, as though Udolpho is partly made of shadow. The castle’s immense dimensions suggest great strength, but are more grotesque than reassuring. Parts of the castle are in disrepair, hinting at a former glory that is long past. Udolpho was once a formidable fortress, but the evil Montoni exploits its remoteness and inaccessibility to protect his band of marauding condottieri.
Aging castles and buildings are common props in gothic fiction, and Udolpho is among the most famous because it magnificently manifests the spirit of menace associated with the literature. The castle is poorly illuminated, and Radcliffe describes its gloom as a contagion capable of infecting those who stay there. In contrast to the interior furnishings of La Vallee, which are minimal yet suited to the simple tastes of its residents, the furnishings of Udolpho are austere and suggest an absence of basic comforts. Hallways that trail off into darkness and illusions of both sound and sight, created by the castle’s vast interior, all contribute to its aura of supernatural peril. Above all, Udolpho conveys a sense of entrapment and imprisonment. Emily’s removal to the castle is tantamount to an abduction, and Montoni does not allow her to leave its premises. Each night, she is locked in a bedroom set apart from other rooms in the castle.
Typical of gothic fiction, the castle serves as a physical manifestation of the states of mind of its inhabitants. The deterioration of parts of Udolpho and reclamation of some of its grounds by the wild natural world express the moral decline of its owner, Montoni, a nobleman who indulges in thievery and murder. The secret passages that honeycomb the walls of its rooms are as tortuous and labyrinthine as Montoni’s evil schemes. Emily sees a grim portent of her own fate in a legend associated with the castle: Udolpho is supposedly haunted by the ghost of its former owner, a woman who refused to acquiesce to Montoni’s will.