Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk is a quintessential novel within the Gothic genre. Written in 1796, the novel relies on traditional male and female gender roles and then obscures and deconstructs those gender roles in order to facilitate the idea of horror.
During this time period, a traditional female gender role would be filled by a passive, weak, subservient, and sexually reactive (as opposed to sexually proactive) woman. Virginia de Villa Franca is a prime example. She is described as virtuous and beautiful. She is a nurse who serves others and eventually becomes a successful wife. Antonia is another example here, and her innocence becomes the object of Don Lorenzo’s desire.
Matilda is the opposite. Ambrosio becomes the object of Matilda’s desire, which flips the traditional gender dynamic. She eventually seduces him, in a highly blasphemous and heinous act. In order to explain the driver behind her actions, it’s revealed that Matilda initially cross-dressed as Rosario, a...
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