Today on the train home I finished reading Matthew Lewis’ The Monk. This is a very important early Gothic Novel. The style is grotesque and I think deliberately quite farcical, but it does raise some really interesting points about façade and hypocrisy in religion, and is a really excellent insight into the nature of lust and objectification of women. Without giving too much away, one of the central plots in the story revolves around Ambrosio’s lust for a young woman. This becomes increasingly obsessive, to the point where he no longer sees her as human. The story is written by a young man, so it is really great to get that perspective on such a complex emotion.
It is a very tragic and, in places, gory novel. The really shocking scenes are towards the end of the book, when you have (hopefully) developed an empathy for the characters. Some of the female characters are extremely docile and naive, but this is perhaps a reflection on women’s roles and lifestyles at the time the story is set (sometime during the Inquisition). Or maybe a comment on the arguably female trait of being caring rather than assertive. There are stronger female characters, but they are rather sociopathic, and used as villains within the plots. I’m slightly criticising the portrayal of women as a bit simplistic or stereotypical, but the male characters are also fairly archetypal. However, I do think this is knowing and deliberate, as the story has that dark-fairytale feel that is characteristic of Gothic writing, so in my view, it does suit the piece to use these recognisable characters.
There are also some great demonology scenes, and a lot of religious iconography. I would definitely recommend it, and persevere with it as all the loose ends do tie together eventually.