Gothic Fiction: An Analysis of Space in The Monk.
Space is inseparable part of every text of literature. In the Gothic fiction space is extremely important, as the Gothic fiction is mostly based on creating images connected with human perception. During the process of reading readers often use their imagination. Therefore, depiction of old castles, ruined abbeys, monasteries, subterranean passages, vaults, or secret panels, is a standard method of creating the atmosphere. As Izdebska claims, “[t]he subject of a story is event in some space, but also the space itself” (33). A typical example is the setting in Horace Walople’s Otranto, being almost a character in the novel. The castle with its ghosts, giant helmets, giant feet, giant hands, has an influence on much of the novel action.
The situation is not different in Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. As Coleridge puts it, The Monk “[is] the product of an imagination, ‘rich, powerful, and fervid’’’ (qtd.in Parreaux 77). So, in this multiepisodic story, several kinds of space can be discovered. Lewis’s understanding of space is closely connected with his own personal point of view on this issue as “[he] wrote in the early years of romanticism, when the ideas of self-expression in art and the close connection between the artist’s life and work were new and exciting” (Maclachlan VII). In the words of Maclachlan,
For us it may seem naïve that he was content to be identified with his fiction, and his fictional hero, but at the time such an identification offered a new way of reading and new ways of seeing the world and the individual’s place in it, however disturbing that might be. (Maclachlan VII)
Arguably, such awareness makes the reading more interesting.
Space created by Lewis in The Monk is multidimensional, multilateral: open space vs. enclosed space. Another types of space which are presented are: relationships between people as well as personal vs. public space and central vs. peripheral space. Let us concentrate on the three most important kinds of space within the novel, namely: personal space, the relation between space and characteristic, and enclosed versus open spaces.
The Monk is a book where several people’s personal space (freedom) is violated. The most vivid example is a story of Antonia. She is a young, innocent girl, who lives happily in India, later in Murcia, but with her arrival to Madrid, the period of innocence is soon ended. Antonia is a very religious person, we meet her in church, with her aunt Leonella. She is very bashful and not acquainted with the world of adults. In the scene in church, she is veiled, which is symbolic : “The veil stands for the traditional chastity ascribed to women, the fact that their charms are traditionally covered, the belief that sex does not and need not concern them” (Morse 52-3). The veil is also a key element concerning Bleeding Nun: “The myth of the Bleeding Nun is built around structural opposition between the...