A woman enters a religious community, usually to take vows. Either as a nun or a religious sister. This is more commonly historically, or in historical works.
Reasons for drama have split this up into several types:
Retiring to a conventA woman, often elderly, usually widowed or heartbroken, goes to a convent to take refuge from the world, or perhaps an Arranged Marriage or to escape from an abusive marriage already in effect. A rape victim may avoid the malicious gossip (or perhaps Honor-Related Abuse) and hide in an all-female world. After a Heel–Face Turn, this may show repentance. Some do not actually take vows, but none of them intend to return to the world.
This is usually an Ending Trope, and a Bittersweet Ending at that, because she usually is escaping tragedy to the only refuge she has. It may also be a way to dispose of minor characters without much ado.
In the middle of the story, a character may attempt this, but this usually leads to the abbess rebuking her gently and sending her back into the world on the grounds she has no vocation.
ImmuredA woman's father ruthlessly compels her to enter the convent to shut her off from her lover because he thinks she has disgraced the family, or just to save her dowry. (The permanent form of Locked Away in a Monastery.)note
Or a woman who promised I Will Wait for You foolishly gave up hope, and her lover returns to find she entered a convent. Horrors! This differs from Retiring to A Convent in that her decision was foolish even if a desperate attempt to escape an Arranged Marriage, and her being bound by her vows is treated as a dreadful thing. Unsurprisingly this particular trope was chiefly Protestant and was a Discredited Trope by the end of the Victorian era.
VocationUsually found only in explicitly religious literature. A woman wants to become a nun when her family considers it her duty to submit to an Arranged Marriage. She is often — especially when the story is far removed from Real Life — So Beautiful, It's a Curse because they think they can get a good match because of it. Or, alternatively, she feels a strong internal conflict about whether to become a nun.
A Real Life vocation is a spiritual prompting, like becoming a priest or minister after feeling "called" by God. But a woman who merely wants to become a nun and does with little or no opposition (internal or external) seldom appears in stories while she is doing it because that part of her story lacks drama.
Nuns, strictly speaking, are women who belong to enclosed contemplative orders. These "cloistered" nuns are dedicated to 24/7 cycles of prayer including liturgical chant, along with everyday tasks and usually some form of small industry for self-support. Sisters belong to orders dedicated to going out into the world to serve as teachers, health care workers, etc. The equivalent for men is monks vs. brothers.
Men can fall under any of these reasons as well, although their greater ability to control their own lives and lesser need for refuge have meant it's a predominately female trope. Men are also more likely to become The Hermit for religious reasons, which can also hit this trope.
These tropes can apply to either Buddhist or Christian nuns — and were used in some Crystal Dragon Jesus pagan situations. Note that it applies only to nuns, and monks, whose taking vows was a significant event in either the story itself or its Back Story. Has nothing to do with Get Thee to a Nunnery. Subtrope of Turn to Religion.
- After the events of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, several of the reformed Numbers (Sein, Otto, and Deed to be exact) end up joining the Saint Church as part of their sentence. Quite ironic given the fact that, when they were villains, their plans involved kidnapping the clone of the Sankt Kaiser (whom they're now all friends with).
- Satoko from The Legend of Mother Sarah is a mix between "Vocation" and "Retirement". In a Cyberpunk world placed After the End and where women are not given any protection at all from the violent skirmishes between the two opposing military dictatorships Mother Earth and Epoch, a young female war orphan has few choices to escape from certain death or Sex Slavery followed by death. Thus, Satoko chose to Turn to Religion as a crutch to put up with the atrocities she has to face day after day and also to remain somewhat spared since she looks after younger war orphans and works as a war nurse. But, as she finds out later, even this is not enough and her Mother Superior makes sure Satoko and the other nuns understand this thoroughly.
- Ōoku: The Inner Chambers:
- Arikoto's backstory is that he felt a genuine desire to become a Buddhist monk, and, since he was the third son in the family, took the vows. Unfortunately, Reverend Kasuga's machinations in order to make Arikoto Iemitsu's concubine pretty much forced him to revoke his vows. Gyokuei had less qualms about leaving the monastery, since he didn't join so much out of faith but personal loyalty to Arikoto.
- It was tradition for the consort and chief concubines of the shogun to take Buddhist vows after the shogun dies. It was notable that both Arikoto and Tensho-in hadn't, as both had been asked to guide their respective shogun's successors.
- The real Prince Kazu hated the idea of marrying Iemochi so much he was prepared to run away and join a monastery. This gives his hidden sister Chikako the idea of her taking his place so he could join the monastery and she could have their mother to herself. Chikako would later become a nun herself after Iemochi's death in order to mourn her.
- In a Fantastic Four story in an issue of What If?, where all four members of the team have the Human Torch's powers, Susan Storm decides to become a nun when during a superhero team mission they accidentally caused the death of a young child, causing the team to have so much guilt for a needless death they could have averted that three of its members forswore ever using their powers again, including Susan. (Interestingly, the one who decides to remain an active hero is Ben Grimm instead of Johnny Storm.)
- Betty Ross Banner did this during Peter David's run on The Incredible Hulk after believing that the Hulk had been killed by the Leader's gamma bomb. When she learned her husband was indeed alive, she reconciled with him and left the convent.
- Bat Lash: After their parents are killed, Bat stashes his sister Melissa in a convent for safety while he embarks on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. When he returns for her after he has killed the men responsible, he finds that she has decided to take vows and stay in the convent rather than return to the farm with him.
- In Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou, Prince Houssain, having lost out in the competition for Princess Nouronnihar, became a hermit. At the end of the tale, he remains one because he found himself happy in it.
- In a Japanese tale, a foolish man takes his reflection in a mirror for his father, and his foolish wife takes hers as a lovely young concubine he's introduced into the house. The resulting quarrel is resolved when a nun asks to look, sees herself, and tells the wife that the woman repented and became a nun, so the wife can forgive her.
- In Guardian, Lulu is placed in Bevelle's temple to become a Yevonite cleric after Ginnem's death, mainly because she's an orphan with nowhere else to go. She first meets Yuna here, as she's in the care of the temple while Braska is on his pilgrimage; after Braska dies, Zuke decides to send Lulu to Besaid as well since she's clearly not enthused about taking orders.
- In the fifth alternate ending in Five Happily Ever Afters for Juliet Capulet, Juliet is rescued in time but Romeo isn't. Friar Lawrence helps her find solace in her faith, and she takes the veil and eventually becomes an abbess, finding genuine if bittersweet happiness and praying for Romeo’s soul.
- At the end of Helluva Deal, Lila Rossi decides to join a convent to save her soul since she now has definitive proof that Hell exists, and she knows that she'll end up there if she doesn't change her ways.
- In the movie Robin and Marian the middle-aged Robin Hood returns from the crusades to discover Marian has, in his absence, taken holy vows and risen through the ranks of the convent to become the abbess.
- Averted in El Cid. Rodrigo and Ximene steal away to spend some time together, but Rodrigo is called once again to fight for Spain. Upset, and pregnant, Ximene returns to the convent where she was educated. The Mother Superior tells her she's welcome to stay as a guest, but not to consider joining up:
"You were made for the world, Ximene. One day you will want to go back to it."
- This is the main plot of the book and film The Nun's Story, starring Audrey Hepburn. The Vocation variety, as Gabrielle becomes a nun of her own free will, although she eventually realizes she isn't cut out to be one.
- The last third of The Song of Bernadette depicts Bernadette riding out of town on a gorgeous spring day to spend the rest of her life in a convent. In the film, she wanted to marry her friend Antoine but was told she had to "choose Heaven" because of her visions. Antoine shows up by the roadside with a huge spray of flowers announcing that he plans to live a single life too (see the Real Life section, below).
- Lucia Santos has become a nun in the very last scene in The Miracle Of Our Lady Of Fatima, where the basilica commemorating her and her cousins' 1917 visions of the Blessed Virgin is opened. The real Lucia did go to a convent school at 13, run by the Dorothean sisters, and later joined their convent; by the time the basilica opened she was 46 and in the enclosed Carmelite order, although she was present at the festival.
- Novitiate is about this. Cathleen, feeling a true calling, joins a contemplative order, unfortunately run by a Mother Superior (a bravura performance by Melissa Leo) who is sadistically controlling and runs the place like a Cult. The girls, expecting rigorous spiritual training, don't know she isn't normal. The lucky ones leave or are kicked out. At the last possible instant, Cathleen backs out of her perpetual vows.
- In the 1923 silent film The White Sister, the heroine (played by Lillian Gish) receives word that her One True Love (Ronald Colman) has died, and she then decides to serve as a nun in his memory. Oops, turns out he was still alive.
- Stealing Heaven: Héloïse reluctantly becomes a nun due to Abelard's urging, but is clearly unhappy during the ceremony, declining to kiss the crucifix with the excuse of being unworthy but pretty obviously from spite.
- Dangerous Liaisons follows its source novel (see below) in having Cecile demonstrate two firms of the trope, at the beginning and the end; she was immured by her parents throughout her childhood, to protect her from the world, and after the tragic plot of the film works itself out, she is broken and becomes a nun. Valmont expresses the same opinion of the difficulty of seducing such a sheltered girl, too; “too easy.”
- The Australian sex comedy Alvin Purple (1973) has the Clueless Chick-Magnet falling in love with the one woman who's immune to his charms. At the end of the movie she becomes a nun, so Alvin gets a job as the gardener at the nunnery to be with her. Where he gets eyed by a lot of appreciative nuns.
- In L. M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon, the young Emily writes an epic in which her heroine takes vows because she thought the young man she was in love with had died. She asks a priest whether there's any escape. He asks whether there was a feud between the families and is unsurprised to learn there was; he explains that since the heroine had no siblings, she could get a special dispensation to leave and marry to resolve the feud. Emily is taken aback by the prospect of putting "special dispensation" into verse but gamely tackles it.
- In The Wind in the Willows, Mole recounts how the field mice children had put on a play about a sailor who returned from imprisonment and found his sweetheart had become a nun.
- In G. K. Chesterton's The Return Of Don Quixote, Michael Herne, familiar with the conventions of a romantic novel, tracks down his beloved Rosamund, and the first thing he says is to observe that she is a nurse and not a nun. She tells him she had not given up hope of marriage.
- In The Count of Monte Cristo, Mercedes retires to a convent at the end.
- In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte has Jane's cousin Eliza convert to Catholicism so that she can then pack her off to a convent, where she became an abbess. Eliza's motivation seems to have been one of isolation from a world whose disorder and disruptive emotions irritated her.
- In Madeleine L'Engle's A Severed Wasp, an important minor character had entered a convent after her child had died of cancer and she and her husband divorced.
- In Longfellow's Evangeline, the title character became a Sister of Mercy when separated from her betrothed, finally rediscovering him only after he was stricken with illness; he dies in her arms.
- At the end of The Colossus of Rhodes, Lupus's mother dedicates herself to Apollo and becomes a priestess at a temple for him. It is in keeping with a vow she made years previously for if her son lived.
- In Japanese period works becoming a nun can be the only way for a woman to get a divorce, or indeed avoid a forced marriage: basically she runs away, retires into a women's monastery, is a Buddhist nun for a set number of years (around 7), and then she's free to go. In one story the male protagonist helped his unhappily married love interest get away from her husband this way and it was all very bittersweet, knowing they could be together 7 years into the future at the earliest.
- Princess Ilana attempts to do this in book two of the Arcia Chronicles, after being disgraced by her association with the Big Bad Mikhai and losing her flame Rene to Gerika. However, Shander Gardani prevents this by offering to marry her.
- In the Deryni novels, Rothana Nur Hallaj was introduced as a novice nun who had taken her initial temporary vows for vocational reasons before her convent was attacked by Mearan troops. She met Kelson Haldane in the aftermath of that attack and decided to set aside her vows for him (and another kind of public service as his queen). Things got complicated, and she later takes a place with rediscovered Servants of Saint Camber, partly for the vocation and partly for the shame/heartbreak-induced retirement. Later still, Kelson and Araxie offer her the number two job at the new scola to provide an alternative service job outside a convent.
- In some versions of the Arthurian myths, after the Battle of Camlann Lancelot returns from France to find that Guinevere, repenting for what she has indirectly caused, has taken vows in a nunnery. In the same vein, Lancelot then goes on to become a monk.
- In Ivanhoe, Rebecca of course does not become a nun, but she does explicitly compare her dedication to a life of good works and prayer when explaining it. It even gets lampshaded when Rowena asks Rebecca whether there are convents or something similar for Jewish women.note
- Evvy in the Circle of Magic book Melting Stones ends the story promising herself that she'll become a novice in the Living Circle religion—not precisely out of a vocation to serve their gods, but because she believes in their philosophy and wants to be a better person.
- Brother Cadfael novels:
- In the The Leper of St Giles, Avice of Thornbury has been a noble's mistress for years. She becomes a nun after his murder as a career, not a vocation. Cadfael reflects that with her energy and ability she's likely to end up an Abbess or even a saint. She returns later in the series as Sister Magdalena and is very much a Distaff Counterpart to Cadfael.
- In Monk's Hood, Cadfael's New Old Flame Richildis thinks that she's the cause of a gender-flipped version — that Cadfael took the cowl because she married another man. Cadfael doesn't disabuse her of the notion.
- In The Confession of Brother Haluin half the cast is either this trope or considering becoming it. The eponymous Brother Haluin joined Shrewsbury Abbey to atone for a disastrous love affair. And it turns out the lover he thinks is dead is very much alive and has herself 'retired to a convent' after a forced but not unhappy marriage. Haluin and Cadfael encounter a young man considering taking the cowl because the girl he wants is forbidden (she's his father's half-sister). The girl herself agrees to make another marriage to a fine young man who wants her badly only to disappear the night before the wedding She takes refuge in her mother's convent where she is eventually discovered. Finally, while guests at a new convent Cadfael is relieved to see that the young sister portress — almost certainly immured by her family for economic reasons — is thoroughly enjoying her responsible office and happy in her new life.
- Judith Perle, a protagonist of The Rose Rent, confides a desire to take the veil to Cadfael who discourages her as she has no vocation just a wish to escape from the world. He sends her to Sister Magdalen who agrees with Cadfael but offers Judith the shelter of her convent - without vows - any time the world becomes too much for her, Judith, to bear.
- In Sharpe's Honour, the Marquesa gets immured in a convent so she can't contradict the false evidence being used to frame Sharpe.
- In Madeleine E Robins's Sold For Endless Rue, Laura is urged to take vows before she attends medical school; it would simplify life. In the end, when Bieta tracks her down, she is indeed wearing the attire of a lay sister, and explains how she came to take vows.
- In Margot Benary-Isbert's Under The Changing Moon, the heroine thinks of returning to the convent where she had gone to school. When she writes, the abbess writes back that it looks like an attempt at escape, not a vocation, and furthermore, if she finds obeying her mother irksome, she should remember that she would have to take vows of obedience. When she falls impossibly in love, she concludes that she has no vocation.
- In Poul Anderson's "Kyrie", the opening paragraph recounts the work of sisters on the moon, and how one of them annually attends a mass she had endowed before joining. The story recounts the events leading to that.
- In Poul Anderson's "The Live Coward", a Gender Flip and unusual use. Wing Alak defeats Varris in a duel by injecting him with a substance that makes him suggestible. When he is tended for his injuries, he listens to the abbot and takes vows. This makes him legally dead.
- In Gone with the Wind (at least in the book), Scarlett's youngest sister, Carreen, becomes a nun after her sweetheart is killed in the Civil War. The deaths of the O'Hara parents and other war-related trauma probably didn't exactly argue against retreat from the secular world, either.
- In Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novel Unnatural Death, when recounting the Dawson family history, the Old Retainer recounts the story of Mr. Paul with horror: he had fallen in love with the sister of his brother's wife, but she had become a nun, and he had, shockingly enough, become a Catholic and a monk.
- In Katherine Paterson's Of Nightingales That Weep, after the Old Flame Fizzle brings home to her her failure, she goes to the convent to try to take vows with the former Empress. Her confession, however, makes the empress question whether she would really fit in as a nun.
- Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede, about Philippa Talbot, a successful professional woman who well into her forties abandons her life of London sophistication for the Benedictines, an enclosed contemplative ordernote . She has many reasons, one of which is the death of her five-year-old son in a highly publicized tragic accident, a fact that she hides from everyone.
- In Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor, there is becoming a votary of this god or that. This is suggested for a woman betrothed but not married to a prince, which means she was detached from her natal family but not attached to her marital one yet. Also for Maia when conspirators try to force him to abdicate.
- In Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, Rild, having failed to assassinate Sam, because he can't after Sam saved his life, stays with the monks, and after a time, feels a vocation. Sam warns him not to do it out of guilt, but Rild assures him he feels the vocation before donning the saffron robe.
- In Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz, Brother Francis is in fact only a novice at the beginning; wanting to finish it is his motive for some actions during his vigil.
- Nick Velvet: At the end of "The Theft of Turquoise Telephone", Nick discovers that Japanese general wanted for war crimes who was believed to have committed suicide at the end of the war had actually retreated to a Buddhist monastery and been living as a monk for 30 years. (The man who committed suicide was actually the general's brother.) As he has spent 30 years atoning for his crimes, Nick leaves him to live out the rest of his life undisturbed, rather than expose him.
- In "Lore Lay" by Clemens Brentano, the beautiful Lore Lay is accused of witchcraft. The bishop cannot bring himself to sentence Lore Lay to death and instead orders her to become a nun.
- In The Traitor Son Cycle, by the end of the first book, Amicia decides to take her vows and become a nun, as she feels this is her calling.
- In The Witchlands, Evraine explains that she became a monk because she couldn't stand the Decadent Court her brother the king surrounded himself with, and if she didn't join the Carawen, she's be required to participate in the state duties instead of running around the countryside as a Warrior Monk.
- In Warrior Cats, each Clan has a medicine cat, who serves as The Medic and the religious leader of their Clan, and who is forbidden to take a mate. Several characters do throughout the series, including POV characters Leafpool, Jayfeather, and Alderheart.
- At the end of Odtaa, Rosa retires to a convent following the failure of the rebellion and the deaths of her best friend and her remaining family. The narrator makes a point of assuring us that she found true happiness, not merely relief from tragedy, there.
- In Wicked, Elphaba spends several years living at a Unionist convent, despite being an atheist. At first, it's an alibi for her terrorism, but she later stays for several years due to the trauma of her lover Fiyero's death.
- Zig-zagged in Heavenly Ways by Ivan Shmelyov. Darinka is deeply pious, has a vocation and wants nothing more than to enter a convent, and after solving her financial problems with the help of Viktor she does become a postulant. The problem is she and Viktor are almost instantly drawn to each other, so much that after the beloved old abbess dies, Viktor comforts Darinka, and she leaves the convent to live with him. However, especially since he is married (though separated), she is extremely conflicted about it and admits she has never been truly happy since she left the convent.
- Maria Watches Over Us takes place in a Catholic school. It's shown in flashbacks that Sei's previous girlfriend left her to become a nun.
- In Dangerous Liaisons, Cecile starts the story freshly emerged from the convent where her parents placed her to shelter her from the world, and ends it broken by tragedy and retiring to become a nun. Incidentally, Valmont, The Casanova, is bitingly sarcastic about the effectiveness of a convent upbringing in ensuring virtue (and demonstrates the point as a means to an end):
“To seduce a young girl, who has seen nothing, knows nothing, and would in a manner give herself up without making the least defence, intoxicated with the first homage paid to her charms, and perhaps incited rather by curiosity than love; there twenty others may be as successful as I.”
- Per The Divine Comedy, Piccarda Donati became a nun in her life to escape from the world, but unfortunately, the world did not take kindly to that.
- Beatrice is sent to a nunnery by Frederick in Another Period in order to hide their incest in the second season. Dodo goes to the same nunnery between seasons 1 and 2.
- In The A-Team episode "The Only Church in Town", Face's lost love Leslie is a rare example of a woman becoming a nun willingly as a "calling". She explains to him that she wanted to become a nun even when they were in college together and that she disappeared without talking to him because she knew having to see him again would shake her resolve. She further tells him that, while being married to him would have been "a wonderful second choice", at some point she knew she would have regretted not going with her calling. Despite initially feeling hurt at being ditched without even a last goodbye, Face eventually comes to understand and respect her position.
- Ursula on The Borgias becomes a nun after Cesare kills her abusive husband in a duel, out of guilt over her (indirect) involvement in his death.
- On My Name Is Earl, Earl's former landlady entered a convent after being convinced she'd heard the voice of God...which was actually just Earl on a walkie-talkie being picked up by her hearing aid. (Earl and his friends took full advantage of this, and used the walkie-talkie to convince her to do nice things for them.) When Earl tells her what he did she has a Crisis of Faith.
- Averted in Brides of Christ. Diane/Catherine feels Artie calling for the vocation, even though she leaves at the end of the series.
- Averted in Call the Midwife. The nuns of Nonnatus House all feel the religious life is their vocation; even Sister Bernadette, who leaves the Order to get married, is incredibly conflicted, and it's possible she'll have some sort of relationship with the Order later on (potentially as a Third Order sister). On the other hand, Chummy, a devout Anglican, seriously considers joining the Order when her mother tries to shoot down her plans to marry Constable Peter Noakes; she thinks better of it, and instead marries Peter and takes a six-month trip as a midwife-missionary in Sierra Leone. On the other hand, Cynthia, who gave no particular indication of devoutness before this point, ends up coming to the conclusion that she was being called to the religious life, and ended up taking vows.
- One Life to Live Gabrielle Medina runs to a convent to take vows because she's so terrified of her feelings for Max Holden. Him tracking her down and them going at on the grounds of the rectory changed her mind. Years later, Maggie Carpenter is already enrolled in the convent when she meets Max. She abandons her studies to pursue a relationship with him but leaves town to resume them when it falls apart.
- On The Musketeers, Aramis' First Love Isabel was Locked Away in a Monastery by her parents and became a nun after she miscarried their baby, or so Aramis believes. In truth, it was her choice because she knew that Aramis would never be happy settling down and start a family.
- In the final episode of Robin of Sherwood, Marian chose to take the vows after she believed that Robin was killed.
- In one Father Brown episode, a woman convicted of murdering her husband has her sentence overturned after Father Brown uncovers evidence that exonerates her. He later realizes that she did in fact kill him, which she confesses was done in desperation because the husband was a vicious domestic abuser. Since she's free but knows that she's guilty, she atones by becoming a nun.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent. The detectives learn that a nun was involved in a hate crime several years earlier and joined a convent in order to atone for what she did. She promises to turn herself in if/when the victim ultimately dies from his injuries.
- In Hikari Sentai Maskman, Igam is revealed to be a woman and in fact the lost princess of the good Tube kingdom before it was corrupted by the current ruler Zeba and she was basically tricked into servitude. Once she pieced things together, she turned against Zeba and helped the Maskman take it down. In the end, her history of serving Zeba still remained, so to make up for that, she became a nun and wandered the underground labyrinth of Tube to atone for her time as Zeba's general.
- One legend of Guanyin says that in an incarnation as the Princess Miaoshan, she preferred to enter the convent rather than make a grand marriage. Her father sent her to work at menial tasks, but when wild animals helped her complete them, he had her executed instead.
- One legend of the Buddha had a woman bring him her dead son. The Buddha told her he could bring the boy back to life with mustard seed from a house that had never known mourning. When she could not find it, he instructed her in the Way, resulting in her becoming a nun from vocation.
- Averted in Warhammer 40,000 where joining the Adepta Sororitas is anything but a quiet life (they're called the Sisters of Battle for a reason). Essentially the Imperium's Serious Business outlook on religion up a notch, the nuns take to the battlefield in Power Armor and lots of flame-based weaponry, all the better to burn the heretic, kill the mutant, and purge the unclean with. While there are some Sororitas in non-combat roles, they still serve the Inquisition in some way, like decyphering xenos messages or running the Black Ships that bring potential psykers to Terra for training.
- Chastity isn't an actual requirement, but very few have the time to take advantage of it.
- In Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxanne retires to a convent after being widowed. Cyrano visits her every day.
- In The Sound of Music, Maria Rainer was a nun-in-training before being sent to the Von Trapp family as a governess. Later in the play/movie, she tries to definitely return to the convent after she realizes she is in love with the Captain. The Reverend Mother, being a rather savvy sort of person, informs Maria kindly but firmly that she can't use the convent to run away from her feelings, and reassures her that "just because you love this man, it doesn't mean you love God less." Maria takes the advice at heart and averts the trope by returning to the family and marrying the Captain.
- In Much Ado About Nothing, when Hero has been accused of being unfaithful, the priest's Plan B is to quietly ship her off to a nunnery where she can live out the rest of her days in anonymity.
- Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet also had this plan for Juliet after discovering that Romeo had committed suicide. Juliet commits suicide instead.
- In The Comedy of Errors Egeon and his wife Emilia were separated at sea during a storm and both think the other had perished. Emilia entered a convent and eventually became an abbess (Mother Superior).
- In Hamlet, Hamlet tells Ophelia "Get Thee to a Nunnery," which is nowadays taken at face value rather than as a Double Entendre.
- In Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Thaisa becomes a nun in the temple of Diana after she believes her husband and child died at sea. She is wrong, and they are reunited 14 years later thanks to some Divine Intervention.
- In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Theseus offers this option to Hermia as an alternative to being executed or marrying Demetrius. She decides to Take A Third -- well, fourth -- Option and elope with Lysander instead.
- Isabella in Measure for Measure, a novice in a convent, is left with a choice between marriage to the Duke and becoming a nun at the end of the play. Since her interest in taking her final vows is never shown to waver and Shakespeare gives her no reply to the Duke's proposal, her choice is up to the director (or can be left ambiguous).
- In some Kabuki plays, a female character takes temporary vows (by cutting her hair) as a Buddhist nun to duck a forced marriage.
- In The Saint of Bleecker Street by Gian-Carlo Menotti, visionary Annina says she will take the veil one day. She ultimately does, but dies during the ceremony.
- Subverted somewhat by Sister Fidelma; in ancient Ireland monasteries were important places of learning even before Christianity, and it was common for people such as Fidelma to seek the religious life merely for the educational opportunities it offered.
- One of the prisoners rescued from the slave camp in Dragon Quest V becomes a nun.
- In the H-Game Kango Shicyauzo, this (retiring to a convent) is Sister Maria's backstory. She took her vows after being widowed and is now the head nun at St. Michael's Nursing School.
- At the end of Blazblue Central Fiction with the world finally saved both Noel and Lambda become nuns, rebuild Celica's old church, and take care of the seemingly catatonic Nu.
- A post-release Cuphead update allowed "secret" alternate routes for boss fights based on certain actions. In "Sally Stageplay", is is actually possible to kill the actor playing her husband, leading to Sally becoming a nun and the next stage taking place at a nunnery instead of a suburban household.
- In this Awkward Zombie strip, Corrin's two older brothers propose to her, citing that Ryoma was raised by a different family (but is her biological brother as far as she knows), and Xander isn't her biological brother (but they thought they were siblings their whole life). Corrin promptly runs away to join a monastery.
- St. Clare of Assisi and her best friend Ines had to elope in the middle of the night to become a nun. Her family chased after her to try to get her back, but she had already taken her vows — and cut her long, beautiful hair, which was what really convinced them.
- Actress Dolores Hart, who had been in 10 films in the late 1950's and early 1960's (making her debut with Elvis Presley), surprised many fans when she left her acting career to become a Benedictine nun in 1963. She initially discovered her vocation while playing the above-mentioned St. Clare in 1961's Francis of Assisi.
- One medieval saint hung outside her window holding on with her fingers until her family thought she had fled and then dressed as a man and ran off to get to the convent and escape her Arranged Marriage.
- Bernadette Soubirous, who had eighteen visions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes when she was fourteen, entered a hospice school at 16 and at 22 joined the Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction. Fictional accounts aside, her own writings show that she wanted to do this, rather than being forced into it. Her friend Antoine Nicolau really was just a friend, and in fact was married before the visions began. However, her story codified the Vocation type where seeing the Blessed Mother means the visionary/visionaries have to Take The Veil and die young, preferably of TB. (Bernadette, an already physically frail girl, died of bone tuberculosis when in her 30's.)
- Of the three children who had visions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal, only Lucia survived into adulthood (Saints Francisco and Jacinta fell victim to The Spanish Flu, ages 9 and 10). She was almost immediately popped into a school run by the Dorothean Sisters, and her name changed to Maria Dores, to keep pilgrims from hounding or venerating her. After graduation she chose to join the Dorotheans, later switching to the Discalced Carmelites, a very strict contemplative order, where she stayed until her death in 2005.
- The cultural trope of Marian visionaries joining a convent/monastery and/or dying young is so codified and ingrained in everyone's minds that visionaries are often criticized or flat-out disbelieved if they stay in the secular world or directly intervene in secular or religious matters. Melanie Calvat, one of the visionaries of La Salette, got lambasted for either trying to intervene in the French state's relationship with the Church, or being used as an Unwitting Pawn by conservative politicians. The little visionaries of Our Lady of Beauraing were raked over the coals for getting married and having normal family lives. Benedictine scholar Hughes Delogne points out that Mary herself was married, and asked Christ to do his first miracle (water into wine) at a wedding, something a lot of people seem to forget. A priest who'd studied the visitations defended the children and issued a snarky comment about the stereotype causing people to expect all Marian visionaries to follow the same pattern.
According to our way of looking at sanctity, these children should have entered a convent at a very early age and died of consumption at the age of twenty-two. The Blessed Virgin probably has a different way of looking at things.
- Christine De Pizan entered a convent towards the end of her life. Her daughter eventually followed suit.
- Russian Tsars, being the defenders of Christian orthodoxy that they were, were never allowed to divorce. They got around this by sending their wives to convents, allowing them to remarry.
- Princess Alice of Battenberg, Prince Philip's mother, took her vows later in life, after her husband's death. She founded a religious order in Greece, and ran an orphanage, sometimes pawning trinkets from her royal past to support the order. She kept up many of her habits from before the religious life, to the puzzlement of many (including her mother, who famously commented, "What can you say of a nun who smokes and plays canasta?"). It was a capstone to a colorful life that included sheltering Jews from Nazis in Athens and being named as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. (Her last years are a main source for a few episodes of The Crown (2016), particularly S 02 E 04 "Bubbikins".)
- The Japanese empress dowager Kenrei-mon-in, after her failed suicide at Dan-no-ura and capture by the Minamoto, became a Buddhist nun and lived most of her remaining years in seclusion in a small hut at the remote temple of Jakko-in.
- Bl. Imelda Lambertini (1322-1333) begged to join a Dominican convent at five. Supposedly she was accepted at nine.note Or she may simply have been enrolled in the convent school. At eleven she had her first communion — and died minutes later. Pope Francis says "not like Bl. Imelda" for "not a saint or perfect".
- Saint Therese of Lisieux (formerly Marie-Therese Martin), three of her sisters (Pauline, Marie and Leonie) and one of their cousins (Marie Guerin) became nuns at one point or another. Therese herself had allegedly wanted to do this ever since she was a kid, but she was turned down by the local Carmelite convents for her youth and didn't get her wish granted until she was at least fifteen. Her sister Leonie, learning disabled and likely autistic, became The Determinator by entering convent after convent and getting booted out until she finally made a home for herself with the Sisters of the Visitation. Her cause for sainthood was finally turned in in 2015. Today's Leonie League and Brother Herman's Eremite Network are preparing to form monastic orders expressly for autistic and Down's Syndrome people who feel called to holy service.
- Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, after being widowed at an early age, intended to escape from either being pawned off into an Arranged Marriage by her royal parents and from getting involved in her husband's Big, Screwed-Up Family's drama by becoming a nun. She didn't fully get her wish, but she did manage to get both sides to get off her case and ultimately became a Dominican Tertiary, building an hospital in Marburg with her dowry and helping out the poor until her death.
- Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, sister-in-law to the last Tsar of Russia and aunt to the above mentioned Princess Alice, became an Orthodox nun after the murder of her husband, Grand Duke Sergei, by an anarchist. She became famous for her kindness and charitable works - as well as her physical beauty. In 1918 she, a fellow nun and a group of nobles were subjected to a Cruel and Unusual Death by the Bolsheviks.note
- One of Julie d'Aubigny's lovers was sent away to a convent by her parents (due to homosexuality being frowned upon at the time). Julie entered the convenant and faked her lover's death before running away wtih her.
- Caterina de Medici spent about four years immured in various convents as a hostage for the rebels that overthrew her family to use for leverage. Historical fictional accounts of her life usually portray her time in Santissima Annuziata delle Murate as the brightest spot in her turbulent life. (Some of those same accounts also say she briefly became a nun-or at least pretended to do so-to preserve her life after some of the rebels wanted her killed or raped, but that seems to be apocryphal.)