Gender Roles In The Monk

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Few literary genres have managed to permeate the popular consciousness in the way that the Gothic has. Visions of ancient castles, tyrants of dwindling sanity, and the supernatural are irrevocably imbedded in the minds of the world at large. Yet, the Gothic tradition offers much more than its more recognizable tropes and motifs would seem to suggest. The Gothic often finds itself addressing weightier matters such as the norms and expectations of gender within society. Matthews Lewis’ early Gothic novel, The Monk is an excellent example of just how the Gothic can engage with and question accepted gender roles to create a sense of tension and unease within the audience. By inverting the traditional gender norms of the day in the characters of …show more content…
Matilda is now capable, not only of taking charge of precarious situations, she is also quite in control of Ambrosio. In terms of masculinity and intelligence, Matilda has fully usurped Ambrosio’s role as a man. The change is so severe, that Ambrosio begins to find himself less attracted to her. In the eyes of Ambrosio, Matilda has almost literally become a man, “ill calculated” for his pleasure. Matilda’s gender metamorphosis has rendered her repulsive to the now “feminized” Ambrosio. The overt manner in which the change is exhibited creates a definite distinction and reinforcement of the concept that gender roles are not meant to be altered and that doing so renders the individual that has transformed ill-suited to the established norms of Lewis’ …show more content…
Ambrosio’s reluctance to seek the aid of demonic powers causes Matilda to lash out at the emasculated Ambrosio. She chastises him curtly for his change stating: “How you have deceived me! That mind which I esteemed so great and valiant, proves to be feeble, puerile, and groveling, a slave to vulgar errors, and weaker than a woman’s” (230). Matilda reflects the same disgust in Ambrosio’s absence newly manifested weakness that Ambrosio did in Matilda’s masculine qualities. Ambrosio’s trepidation is equated with femininity, and is thusly viewed as undesirable in Matilda’s estimation. Again, the deviation from accepted gender norms creates tension and antipathy between the two characters. Lewis uses this distaste for fluid gender behavior to create an atmosphere of chaos that unsettles the reader by manipulating long held gender expectations and

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