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Sexuality in The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis

            "The Monk" is a horror-gothic novel written in 1796 by Matthew Gregory Lewis, a man who came from a somewhat scandalous background which influenced his work as an author later in life. Lewis's mother, Frances, left his father for a lover and Frances had to leave her children as a consequence of the estrangement and social ruin. Lewis continued to financially support his mother but this separation from his mother was a critical point in his life. At the young age of twenty, Lewis wrote his most iconic novel entitled "The Monk", which revolves around temptation, sin, and sexuality, set in the Monastery of Capuchin in Madrid, Spain. .
             The novel follows an idolized monk, Ambrosio, who struggles between maintaining his monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions after he is tempted by a young woman. The characters must navigate through black magic, incest, rape, and the supernatural as they fall from grace and are faced with their consequences of their actions. Matthew Lewis portrays female sexuality as a form of power throughout "The Monk" to advocate that a woman is only able to obtain the power to make her own decisions after she has shed her virtue and becomes aware of the position she holds. Several female characters such as Antonia, Agnes, and Matilda among many others display the varying stages of power linked to the sexuality they have awakened within themselves and the outcomes of their lives that come as an association. .
             Women in this novel who still possess their innocence and virtue are portrayed as weak and ignorant of the world around them, most noticeably portrayed through the actions of a young girl named Antonia. Throughout the novel Antonia's virtue causes others to see her as helpless individual who cannot take care of herself, or make decisions that will greatly affect her personal life. Elvira, Antonia's mother, views her daughter as, "young and artless, uninstructed in the world's perfidy and with charms sufficient to render her an object of seduction" and takes control over matters of Antonia's heart and sends away a man that Antonia has strong feelings for (162).

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