One principal theme in most gothic novels simultaneous to The Monk is that morality tale is usually contrasted onto an appalling and mostly sadistic intrigue with a superficial supernaturalism. A morality tale is usually a tale that is meant to inculcate the reader with the moral percepts of the author through transitional experiences of a protagonist and in the end showing the manner in which virtuous decisions of the author. Through The Monk, Lewis employs numerous of such conventions with numerous elements of his own and thematically uses morality tale to finally show the downfall of the depraved. Through The Monk, Lewis clearly shows how women are deprived of their space in the society and this marks the focus of this paper.
The plot of The Monk is so revolutionary because for instance a character known as Ambrosio who shows traces of lust on the onset of the novel. Ambrosio shows his pride and superiority and fixes his eyes on the virgin. Ambrosio meets Matilda and changes his mind and deviates from his holy conducts, a character that is later revealed in the novel at the end as an emissary of Satan. Morality tales always dwell around such practices. When Ambrioso is tempted to sin, his desires lead him to transgression that eventually culminates in the loss of his eternal salvation (Lewis 166). This is just the beginning of turn of events in the novel.
To begin with, The Monk is full of anti-feminist qualities and through such practices, women are manipulated. The novel depicts women as spectacles through two major environments namely; sensational and brutality. Women are treated brutally. As much as women try to make their lives better, they are aggrieved to a sensational environment that makes their lives to end up getting worse. This is clear in the subplot of Agnes, when she tries to create a better life for herself through her escape from the Landenberg. After being dressed in a similar manner that a ghost is supposed to wear, she comes up with a unique plan and tells Raymond, “I shall quit my chambers….. Whoever meets me will be too much terrified to oppose my escape.” Nonetheless, a plan is hatched that aims at ensuring that a woman does not succeed in making her life better, a real ghost appears (Bleeding Nun) and tries not to let succeed with her plans. Through staging of this episode, the author emphasizes how Agnes is disobedient. Agnes’ insistence and defiant questioning of the destiny fails to find the mythical new society. Through the efforts of Agnes to unsuccessfully escape that makes her end up in different kind of prison, also eventually makes her lead a better life.
Secondly, brutality environment is evident and an example of brutality treatment is seen in Agnes as well. The first instance is the imprisonment of Agnes while she is pregnant. She is imprisoned for a solitary sexual contravention and her whereabouts concealed from her relatives and the Pope’s intervention to get her released disregarded is an enormous blow to her efforts. Ultimately, she is left to starve to death with her new born child. Another good example of brutality is through the Bleeding Nun whose borne were left lie still outside the Landenberg Castle. The borne later rots and nobody is allowed to burry them except the youth who consigns them to the grave. Unfortunately, after Agnes’ horrible death, she doesn’t even receive the dignity of being buried. Thirdly, we realize that Ambrioso rapes and murders her own sister. This is an act that clearly indicates how men are inconsiderate to women including their blood sisters. The final example is that of trampling of the Prioress and being violated by incensed mob. This is the case when the rioters drags the Prioress through the streets, trampling her, treating her with cruelty, spurning her and maliciously showing hatred to her. These are some of the examples of areas in which the author uses to account for women’s mistreatment and efforts to deny them the chance of leading a better life. In fact, the Prioress becomes wretched following the brutality she faces. It is noteworthy that through these examples the reader realizes that every woman’s story is associated to their femininity. It is very unfortunate to see Agnes, a mother who holds a decomposed body of her newborn. The Bleeding Nun who is a licentious wife of a Baron. On one hand, Antonia is an innocent virgin who is brutally raped and murdered by her blood brother, and on the other, Prioress also suffers trampling despite her being the feminine head of the Convent of St. Clare.
Besides, the downfall of other women is also caused by their feminine counterparts. For instance, Antonia’s mum chose for her daughter a worse companion than her sister Leonella. This is because Leonella;s imprudence and irrationality directly leads to the misfortunes of befalling Antonia later in life. When Antonia’s mother also denies Lorenzo the chance to court her daughter, she leaves the daughter open to Ambrosio’s plans to seduce her. In addition, Agnes’s aunt’s jealousy for Raymond’s affection contributes to the aunt’s telling lies regarding Raymond’s intent. This makes Agnes to joining Convent where she later faces imprisonment that eventually leads to her demise (Miles 263).
Lastly, whereas The Monk comes to an end following a wedding that leaves Agnes vowing to become a devoted wife, this does not imply a happy ending to the feminine characters in the novel. They all abide by the statement, “The more culpable have been because of your Mistress, the more exemplary shall be the conduct of your wife.” In spite of eventually reaching a happy environment and a better life in the end of the novel, the marriage between Raymond and Agnes still portrays anti-feminist qualities by leaving Agnes completely devoted to her husband, without shaping her own life. She spends much of her time serving her husband, Raymond. Another marriage is between Lorenzo and Virginia De Villa Franca, who happens to be the idol of her parent and admiration of Madrid (Samuel Taylor 236). This is basically endowed by nature and edification accompanied by every perfection of individual and mind. In this instance, again marriage aims at making the husband happy. Both of the above mentioned marriages are focused on creating most enjoyment for the husband without taking into consideration the gratification or delight of the women. The novel reveals women as creatures who are not entitled to being married for the traditional value, love.
In general, gender is blurred through various characters such as Rosario or Matilda in the novel. In The Monk, supernatural body is sexualized and this is done through the use of ambiguous objects, the she-devil, Matilda. The introduction of Matilda as a man is really astonishing since no one has ever seen his face. Nonetheless, this is clearly depicting women as imposter because Rosario is really the female Matilda, “I am a woman……I am Matilda; You are her Beloved!” (Lewis 205). In addition, there are various instances when gender roles are reversed and men are portrayed as feminine. For example, Ambrosio is the weak major character that is usually shown as female in numerous Gothic novels. He is seen from a feminine perspective when the novel begins and he appears a girl who is protected to keep her innocence and virtues (Railo 128).
Gender roles are again blurred since both Antonia and Ambrosio are unable to differentiate the opposite sex. Antonio is unable to understand, “that there is such a thing as a Man in the world, and imagines everyone to have the same sex. She does not understand men are different from her and I suppose this is what links her to her brother. Analogous to Antonia, Ambrosio forgets that Matilda is a woman and this evident when Matilda briefs Ambrosio as a man (Rosario) a long with the virtuousness of Ambrosio. Moreover, both Ambrosio and Raymond are feminized. For instance Raymond is feminized with the Bleeding Nun, who he imagines is his aficionado Agnes. Raymond is also portrayed as one who has frequent fainting fits and this is something that people consider that only affects females. Moreover, as much as most of the Gothic novels consider female characters as weak, Robert Miles also uses the same to depict the character of Raymond.
According to Robert Miles, The Monk stands for “veiling and disguise” and when one reads the novel, it is possible unveil the true character that Lewis depicts, homosexuality. Through the novel one can clearly tell the open secret of Lewis through characters like Rosario/Matilda, Ambrosio and Lucifer. At last, the desires of Ambrosio become insatiable because he is denied its true object. However, it is important to note that in the centre of the novel, in what is considered as a quick succession, Antonia’s timid, and body is exhibited before Ambrosio in Matilda’s enchantment mirror. In the second, under the monastery in labyrinthine caverns, Matilda invokes asexual unequivocally camp ‘Daemon’. In this case we realize that a beautiful figure is shown as perfectly nakedness (Miles 277) that appears as the opener to Ambrosio’s possession of Antonia. At Matilda’s strident behest there is a figure that relinquishes what is likely to enable Antonia’s seduction. In this instance, the author uses parallelism that raises the question of causation of what is the key to the possession of Antonia. It makes the reader ask numerous questions like, is Antonia’s image a true screen for Ambrosio’s object of desire, the epicene devil?
Lastly, throughout The Monk, Lewis clearly uses numerous traditional aspects of morality tales through the use of unusual elements and demonstrates resemblance to supplementary Gothic novels. Particularly, the sacrifices of innocent people accompanied by lack of divine interception in the novel helps separate it from the traditional morality tale narrative. Through this novel, the reader realizes that the author uses numerous elements to portray women are the unfortunate characters. In most instances they are deprived of their enjoyments as women in the society. For example Agnes’ horrible death who does not receive the dignity of being buried; Ambrioso raping his sister, Antonia; and generally the novel depicts women as spectacles through two major environments namely; sensational and brutality. Although it ends with a wedding, women are still deprived by their husbands and they do not enjoy their traditional value for marriage, love.