One of the chief symbols in Ivanhoe is Front-deBoeuf’s castle at Torquilstone. The name of the castle derives from the word torque, which comes from the Latin word torquere, meaning ‘‘twist.’’ This word is also the origin of the word torture. Torquilstone symbolizes some of the major themes of the novel. It is a place of corruption and lawlessness, a prison that symbolizes the oppression of Saxon culture by the Normans. It was the site of ancient evils, where Front-deBoeuf murdered his father and, before that, Front-de-Boeuf’s father murdered a Saxon noble and his sons. At the time of the novel, it is where Front-de-Boeuf imprisons the Saxons and threatens to torture Isaac, and where de Bracy tries to woo Rowena and de Bois-Guilbert attempts to subdue Rebecca. At the climax of the Torquilstone sequence, which takes up roughly the middle third of the novel, it seems appropriate that the castle is destroyed by Saxons.
If Torquistone represents all that is wrong with England at the time, the forest, home to Locksley and his band of men, stands in stark contrast. In the forest, Locksley leads a society that is ordered and just. Evil takes place in corrupt Norman strongholds such as Torquilstone and later, Templestowe. Good takes place in the forest, a more natural, native setting.
Scott uses foreshadowing to great effect. Early in the novel, a palmer appears. The crossed palms he wears indicate that he has made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The reader knows that Ivanhoe has been fighting in the Holy Land, so his appearance as a palmer foreshadows the revelation of his return to England. Similarly, he competes in the tournament at Ashby as the Disinherited Knight. The reader knows that Cedric, his father, has disinherited him, so the reader suspects that the knight is Ivanhoe in disguise. Also, King Richard’s return to England is anticipated, and feared by such characters as Prince John. The appearance of the Black Knight raises anticipation that Richard has returned to England in disguise.
Sara Constantakis (Editor), Novels for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 31, Sir Walter Scott, Published by Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010.