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English Romantic Literature: Role of Religon in the Regulation of Sexual Conduct

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Lewis, however, inverts his usage of these words describing Ambrosio as ‘ pure and virtuous’ where the word ‘ pure’ has feminine connotations (Lewis 421). Lewis’ sympathetic depictions of Agnes and Marguerite, for instance, further illustrate his liberal approach to women’ s sexual and gender roles. Although both women bear illegitimate children and suffer abuse, Marguerite defies this abuse by stabbing her cruel husband to death. Ellis contends that these characters are ‘ rewarded with domestic happiness at the end of their respective stories’ (131). In addition, although the two women prove that they are also susceptible to seduction, they maintain their virtue and honor.

Marguerite, for instance, states that although ‘ passion over-powered [her] virtue, ’ she refused to sink into ‘ the degeneracy of vice’ (Lewis 122). Lewis’ sympathy towards Matilda, whose inhibitions towards sex qualify her as the most sinful female in the story, further cements the author’ s subversion towards the gender stereotypes brought forth by Catholicism. When Ambrosio censures Matilda calling her a prostitute, the novel’ s narrator defends her stating that Matilda’ s ‘ paramour’ has forgotten that Matilda ‘ forfeited her claim to virtue’ for his sake, ‘ and his only reason for despising her was that she had loved him too well’ (244).

This suggests ‘ The Monks’ undermining of sexual and gender roles, proposing that in some instances, non-conformist and transgressive conducts conforms to virtue. On the other hand, the educated and aristocrat Antonia, whose background and upbringing are aimed at making her a proper lady, resulted to her credulity and unquestioning trust towards Ambrosio who rapes and murders her in the end (Brewer 194). Lewis’ utilization of gender and religious inversions culminates with the restoration of the ‘ natural order’ (Blakemore 535).

Written at the height of the French revolution, Lewis is adamant and unyielding against forces which conspire to proliferate the ‘ unnatural order’ of things.

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