The Monk

Criticism of the Fetishization of Purity found in The Monk College

Matthew Lewis’s The Monk takes its era’s heightened anti-Catholicism to heart, and uses it to critique social norms. Lewis tackles the problem of the fetishization of purity that the Catholic Church, and society outside the Church hold so highly. Lewis presents the idea that despite the Church’s intentions, this fetishization of purity, which causes dangerous seclusion from society, actually leads to depravity in both the religious and secular world. Though Lewis includes both men and women as examples in this critique, regarding the characters Ambrosio and Antonia, his work echoes arguments being made at the time for better education for women. Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman had presented a foundation on which proto feminists could build an argument for women to be educated, instead of remaining innocent and“pure”. It seems that Lewis took this to heart, but applied it more generally across society than his female counterparts. He sees this fetishization of innocence and purity as societal flaws brought upon by the Catholic Church’s authority within society. The Monk criticizes the Catholic Church and the faulty social ideals it brings forth by presenting the fetishization of purity and...

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