Nowhere is this more true, according to Lewis, than in the main monastery. Ambrosio is represented as the archetype of repressed sexuality, and the setting is to blame. As Lewis puts it, Ambrosio’s naturally powerful character might have led him to virtue and greatness in society; however, the monks “[rooted] out his virtues, and . . . allowed every vice which had fallen to his share, to arrive at full perfection.” Thus the monastery serves in this novel to thwart natural feelings and channel them in unhealthy directions. Instead of being a place of devotion, it is a place of resentment and perversion. Predictably, the monastery is the setting for other vices–including various forms of repressed sexuality and black magic.
Convent of Saint Clare. Place of living death and of barbarous incarceration for the female characters of the novel. The novel explores female and male religious devotion, and the convent serves as a counterpart setting to Church of the Capuchins. Like the latter, the convent is represented as a place in which the emotions and human drives are sublimated not into religious devotion but into cruelty and vice. The female characters suffer intensely under the tyranny of various religious figures, none so barbaric as the sister who is in charge of the convent. The suffering they undergo is extreme, as, for instance, one character is bound to the corpse of her stillborn infant and locked into an underground chamber. Although scenes like this one earned Lewis a considerable amount of critical condemnation, they were highly believable to many English readers and were copied by later gothic writers.
Monastery garden. Place of natural beauty and hidden temptation. As in other gothic novels, Lewis’s work introduces a garden that replays and transforms the biblical story of Eden. In this novel Adam is represented by the titular character, Ambrosio, whose life in the monastery has not prepared him to resist temptation; representing Eve is a young woman who has disguised herself as a monk in order to be close to Ambrosio, whom she claims to love. As is typical of gothic settings, however, the tempter is never far away. In this case, the young woman is in reality a demon who has taken on human form in order to lead Ambrosio into damnation.