The Monk by Matthew Lewis

The main story is about a man’s fall from the highest of grace and rank to the lowest darkness of deception. Ambrosio is not just any man. He is the highest, most graceful person – a monk, and the most virtuous, religious monk there could be. That kind of adds to the magnitude of the crimes, in some way. These contrasts are everywhere to be seen throughout the book.

Lewis gives a very interesting perspective on what could happen when someone, who has been shielded from the world his whole life, is suddenly exposed to temptation of human nature. The novel has gained a lot of attention because of its emotional, sexual and passionate content. It must have been controversial at the time.

Temptation has always been perceived as a threat, an unpredictable danger. That part in the book reminded me of another one with similar events. The Bible. When Ambrosio has tasted the forbidden fruit, he forgets who he is and gets totally consumed by everything opposite to his previous life. Then he gets bitten by a snake. It’s impossible to predict the events that are in stock for him. Manipulation, deceit, kidnapping, rape, murder, even witchcraft follow his new passion for women. There’s no turning back.

The fact that Lewis was only nineteen when he wrote the book, and managed to complete it in ten weeks, is very impressive. Unfortunately, his other novels didn’t get the same response. The only thing that disappointed me was that the modest characters, such as Agnes and Antonia, got little room. They would have contributed more to the story and made the story even more subtle, if they had been considered as important as the other characters.

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