The Gothic novel is a novel in which supernatural horrors and an atmosphere of unknown terror pervades the action. The setting is often a dark, mysterious castle, where ghosts and sinister humans roam menacingly. Horace Walpole invented the genre with his Castle of Otranto. Walpole was the first to write this type of novel and was published in 1754. The last type of the gothic novel was Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and was published 1847. Between 1794 and 1847 there were several novels were written of the same form, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1794) by Ann Radcliffe, The Monk (1796) by Matthew G. Lewis. There is usually a quite similar path the gothic novel follows. The conventional Gothic hero or heroine is usually a good person by nature, enduring an ethical calamity after which he or she returns to rigid social (mostly domestic) principles. The calamity is either initiated by the discovery of a repressed secret or by the Gothic villain. The villain is usually a male aristocrat, driven by plentiful malevolence and thoroughly corrupted. Other Gothic villains include dishonest monks or nuns or depraved family members. The repressed secret is frequently some incomplete family business: an unpunished murder of long-ago, parental abuse and filial pain, an indistinguishable sinful past of the family, some undeserved claim for a title. This essay will focus on two specific novels of the gothic form, The Monk (1796) by Matthew G. Lewis and Northanger Abbey (1818), Jane Austen. The essay will discuss the root of evil and whether gothic novels showed evil was within humans and not owing to external manipulation. The essay will take a look at the main characters and their roles concerning evil also will view the acts of the villains. The Monk is a novel of controversy as the main character is the villain and also a Monk, this Monk begins as a pious man but is led astray and becomes a murderous, sexually abusive criminal. The Monk is based in Spain, mainly around the church, where the demise of the Monk happens. The novel follows the conventional form of the gothic form but only to some extent. The villain usually redeems himself by doing something honorable or admitting defeat, in this case the villain just dies and so does the heroine. The main character is the main reason that this particular novel is in agreement with the comment "that evil was within humans" due to the fact that the Monk represents both purity and evil. It is an alteration period for the Monk but it is very short, which is a prime example of the evil within humans. The Monk is a well respected man and is loved by his parish, yet due to a moment of weakness (evil thoughts) he lets himself fall into temptation and then it becomes a never ending battle of good versus evil within him. The Monk allowed himself to get caught up for the affections of a woman and let her control him with her sexuality. The Monk shows great signs of weakness and succumbs to them. After his initial fall from grace he allows his evil overcome him and becomes a rapist and a murderer. This shows great signs of evil within humans as he would have stopped had he not allowed his true nature to prevail. This maybe also is a sign that an outside influence (Devil) was the reason the Monk fell into temptation but the fact that he started to dislike Matilda after he got what he wanted and he wanted to move on to bigger and better things (Antonia).
"Unfortunately, as her passion grew ardent, Ambrosio's grew cold; the very marks of her fondness excited his disgust, and its excess served to extinguish the flame which already burned but feebly in his bosom."
This sort of feeling comes from within, humans reject humans because of the innate feeling of moving on when a certain aspect of their life is exhausted and the Monk felt that Matilda had been exhausted. Lewis showed the evil within humans by using sexuality to control their thoughts and actions. Lewis represents...
Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey Penguin Books, 1994
Lewis, Matthew Gregory, The Monk, Dover Publications, 2003
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