In English 372 we read Stephen Crane’s The Monster shortly after reading Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. I enjoyed reading these both because I find that the two made for a very interesting comparison. Both of these stories are about the creation of a monster, but while Mary Shelly’s creates a monster from pieces of the diseased without the creations will, Stephen Crane’s “monster” is a man who was mutilated while saving a young boy from a fire.
The “monstrous” characters in both novels are in many ways flat characters and seemingly serve as tools to expose truths about the other characters and about the society in which they live. In Mary Shelly’s novel we see that while Dr. Frankenstein creation shows more human emotion than Dr. Frankenstein or any of the other characters. Similarly, we see in Stephen Crane’s The Monster that the “monster” is the man with the most moral integrity.
The differences in the novels may change the way that a reader looks at each of the monster. However, I think that it is hard to tell which of the monsters would evoke more sympathy from a reader. For me it is very difficult to place one of them above another. My thoughts are that in Shelly’s story the monster was created against his will and had no say in his creation so he was the victim of abandonment, but also in Stephen Crane’s story the man consciously decided to save the boy from a fire (a conscious and noble sacrifice) which resulted in his social ostracization so he was a victim of moral injustice. For me, I feel sympathy for both monsters because they are both undeservingly condemned to isolation and prevented from gaining the one thing each truly wants which is social acceptance.
While there are no people today made entirely made of other peoples’ remains, there are many people who have been physically scared by fire. Burn victims today claim to have fears of being socially isolated from their scares such as the man was socially isolated in Stephen Crane’s The Monster. Many have said that they fear being stared at, and that they fear the way their appearance effects their friendships and intimate relationships (Fauerbach).
Of course it is easy to focus upon burn victims today, it is of course more relevant to the authors intents to focus upon the society in which we live in today and its opinion of appearance and vanity. I believe that Mary Shelly and Stephen Crane must have both hoped for a future in which society would treat its members based off of their personality rather than their appearance. Unfortunately, we live today in a society in which burn vicims feel isolated, and in a less direct connection we also see today that our society openly judges people upon the way that they look. This can be seen in strength of the beauty industry.
The beauty industry is worth over 60 billion dollars in the United States, and that value continues to grow today (Revenue). I do believe that every person has the right to feel beautiful, but I also believe that if Shelly and Crane would agree that beauty should be judged based on internal and not external characteristics.
Fauerbach, James, and Shawn Mason. "Psychological Distress after Burn Injury." Psychological Distress After Burn Injury. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2015. <http://www.msktc.org/burn/factsheets/Psychological-Distress-After-Burn-Injury>.
"Revenue of the Cosmetic Industry in the United States from 2002 to 2016." Statista. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2015. <http://www.statista.com/statistics/243742/revenue-of-the-cosmetic-industry-in-the-us/>.