The Distorted Human Nature in Gothic Texts the Turn of the Screw and the Monk

The majority of us love to feel the thrill of the unknown and discovering that which is part of the unexpected or being surprised by those forces that cannot be thought of by a simple explanation. In gothic literature, we are introduced to various aspects that define it as a work of such genre. These aspects include the supernatural, flawed heroes, religious individuals, and the setting as well as the architecture being menacing. In the works of The Monk and The Turn of the Screw, we are given two examples of gothic texts that ensure that you will be on the edge of the seat in anticipation of what will occur to our protagonists. Both of these novels give a mysterious background to the building in which the characters will be found as well as the corruption of a good-natured character by the supernatural. The Monk and The Turn of the Screw exhibit the downfall of uncorrupted individuals into atrocious beings that are unrecognizable due to their encounters with supernatural beings that exploit their human nature.

It is expected of us to give our trust to those whom are deemed holy in the eyes of the church, yet we forget that at their core they are flawed as well. In the Monk by Matthew Lewis, we are introduced to Ambrosio who is a holy man of the church that is revered by the masses and his fellow brothers. However, as it is expected from gothic texts, Ambrosio is tempted by the forces of evil, and he breaks his vow and is doomed to follow a path of self-destruction. The supernatural creatures that appeared in the Monk, in specific Matilda, reflect and exploit those vices that are already present inside of Ambrosio. At the core of Ambrosio’s being, Matilda was able to exploit his lust and pride. It was these characteristics that Matilda feed on and used to gain control over him and ultimately corrupted his soul. It was from this that Matilda was able to lure him into a path that lead him to corrupt his soul until it was doomed. Ultimately, the supernatural being of a demon exposed the true self that was inside of Ambrosio.

Furthermore, it is by his encounter with the supernatural demon of Matilda and Lucifer that we are introduced to how our own human nature is flawed due to the vices that were already present in us and once we allow for those vices to rise to the open they can no longer be hidden. For Ambrosio, his spirituality did not derive from a love of God or the virtues of religion but from his own pride at being admired by those around him. It was this pride, that led him to corrupt first his body by sleeping with Matilda and then his soul by meditating sexual violence against an innocent. As for Ambrosio’s lust, this too was exploited by Matilda in that it stripped from him of the ability to refrain himself from committing a heinous sexual crime as well as violate the one act that should not be committed by any human. It is the act of cold-blooded murder in which Ambrosio’s inability to turn away from this lustful temptation is left to blame. For taking an innocent life at the hands of the supernatural aid will leave a once shining soul into a contaminated one. It was this act that turned his soul over to the supernatural beings that ultimately betrayed him and guided him to his death. For Ambrosio, there was no salvation for his eternal soul once he turned it over to the supernatural entities but for the governess in the Turn of the Screw, there may be a possibility for her to have some redeemable qualities.

A child processes an innocence that is very dear to any adult whom has contact with them, yet it is that same innocence that fuels those evil spirits one may encounter in a gothic text. For the governess in the Turn of the Screw, it was not a hard task for her to love two young and innocent children whom had no parents to look after them and whom projected that angelic nature that calls to a sinful soul. However, as with any gothic text, there is a supernatural entity that accompanies such precious creatures as the children. In the case of the governess, she is slowly driven to madness by the appearance of the ghosts of the previous governess and of Peter Quint whom has chosen young Miles as his target for possession. The nature of the governess was that of a loving teacher whom was willing to raise the children and help them in their educational growth. However, it is her own inner nature that ultimately dooms her and the children in this novel. For the governess unwillingness to confront the children’s strange nature that allows for the ghosts to pursue them and corrupt them alongside the governess.

For the governess, it was by projecting the obsessed relationship that she had for the children into the ghosts that allowed for them to corrupt the children as well as herself. For there are several instances in which the governess aims to be the sole person in which the children can confide in. The ghosts are bound to roam the manor in which their life was wasted away however they only have power over the children and the governess due to her own indecision. For the moment that she first saw the ghost of Quint, she should have protected the children and taken them away from that manor that promised her security in life. In this instance, the nature of the governess became as corrupted as the ghosts for she put her own well-being ahead of the children’s. It was her own failure to accept the supernatural that stripped the children of their innocence and corrupted the governess's feelings towards the children and her own identity. For the governess became a paranoid woman whose delusions feed the ghost's power over her. As the apparitions of the ghosts became more prevalent the governess became more paranoid in her relationship with the children, especially Miles. If the governess had not been consumed by her pride of being chosen to guard over the children and her fear of failure, then she could have prevented the hold that the ghosts had over her being. Ultimately, her entire being and soul became corrupted by the presence of the ghosts that we are left to wonder if she was responsible for the death of an innocent.

It is destined for our human nature to be flawed yet we are given the opportunities to persevere above those flaws and save ourselves. For both, the Turn of the Screw and the Monk, the protagonists of the texts could have been spared the pain and downfall that they encountered yet it was in both cases an issue of their pride that ultimately condemned them. Ambrosio and the governess both held positions of power over innocent individuals that depended on their guidance to save them from the supernatural entities. However, they failed to save their own souls from the corruption of those supernatural beings by allowing them to gain control of their vices. For the governess, it was her passion for the children’s innocence and inflexible stance to doubt this nature that left her as a madwoman. As for Ambrosio, it was the lust that festered in his being for Matilda and then for the young Antonia alongside his pride that gave the demons the grasp over his soul. The supernatural entities of demons and ghosts are present in gothic texts as cautionary creatures that will harm those who allow them into their lives and guide them to the path of destruction. However, the governess was able to partially redeem herself by sending Flora away from the castle and herself in an attempt to save her from the ghosts. In this Ambrosio differs for he is unable to part ways from his demon and eventually can be said to become one himself when he signs away his soul.

There are those of us whom believe that we have a soul that is pure, and it is by our experiences and choices that it becomes tainted. However, it may simply be in our nature to be part of those circumstances that change our entire existence. In the case of the gothic texts, the Turn of the Screw and the Monk, it is both the actions that governess and Ambrosio took that lead their human nature to be distorted by the aid of supernatural entities. Yet, the governess was able to redeem part of herself by liberating one of the children to a path free of those supernatural circumstances that would have doomed her as well. Overall, it is a combination of both actions and evils that tarnish the nature of the worthiest amongst us.

07 July 2022
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