mon·ster mɒn stər/ [mon-ster]
–noun 1.a legendary animal combining features of animal and
human form or having the forms of various animals in combination,
as a centaur, griffin, or sphinx. 2. any creature so ugly or monstrous
as to frighten people. 3. any animal or human grotesquely deviating
from the normal shape, behavior, or character. 4. a person who
excites horror by wickedness, cruelty, etc. 5. any animal or thing
huge in size. 6.Biology. a. an animal or plant of abnormal form or
structure, as from marked malformation or the absence of certain
parts or organs. b. a grossly anomalous fetus or infant, esp. one that
is not viable. 7.anything unnatural or monstrous. –adjective 8.huge;
enormous; monstrous: a monster tree.
[Origin: 1250–1300; ME monstre < L mōnstrum portent, unnatural
event, monster, equiv. to mon(ére) to warn + -strum n. suffix ]
—Synonyms 4. fiend, brute, demon, devil, miscreant.
“He had now seen the full
deformity of the creature
that shared with him some
of the phenomena of
consciousness, and was
co-heir to him of death:
and beyond these links of
themselves made the most
poignant part of his
distress, he thought of
Hyde, for all of his energy
of life, as something not
only hellish but inorganic.”
Cohen’s 7 Theses (1996)
Jeffrey J. Cohen is associate professor of English and human sciences at George Washington University. He
is the author of Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages (1999) and Medieval Identity Machines (2003).
1. Monster’s body = Cultural body
2. Monster always escapes
3. Monster is harbinger of category crisis
4. Monster dwells at Gates of Difference
5. Monster polices borders of the possible
6. Fear of monster really a sort of desire
7. Monster stands at threshold of becoming
1. Monster’s Body = Cultural Body
Monster embodies the
cultural milieu of the
Classic monsters tend
to evolve/adapt to fit
the needs of their own
1. Monster’s Body = Cultural Body
Zombies, for example, have
been seen as representing the
slow, deliberate advances of
the “great unwashed masses,”
a threat to wealthy,
Historically, zombie films
appear more frequently as a
response to, and threat
1. Monster’s Body = Cultural Body
Vampires, on the other hand,
represent the wealthy and
aristocratic – a threat to liberal
vampire films appear more
frequently as a response to,
and threat toward, liberal
2. Monster Always Escapes
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because
they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~G.K. Chesterton
Monsters are resilient creatures
because we cannot really rid
ourselves of the darkness.
• “It is a fact that cannot be denied: the wickedness of others
becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in
our own hearts.”
• “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the
darknesses of other people.”
• Understanding does not cure evil, but it is a definite help, inasmuch
as one can cope with a comprehensible darkness.
• -Carl Jung
3. Monster is a Harbinger of
Western society relies heavily
on binary logic (good/bad,
Monsters defy binary logic to
We are frustrated that we
cannot categorize them:
Frankenstein’s monster is
literally pieced together from
multiple sources. He doesn’t fit.
4. Monster Dwells at the
“Gates of Difference”
Monster is “the other.”
Monster is not like us. Monster is
as ranked by the American Film Institute 2005
1. Dr. Hannibal Lecter (in THE 11. Michael Corleone (in THE
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) GODFATHER: PART II)
2. Norman Bates (in PSYCHO) 12. Alex De Large (in CLOCKWORK
3. Darth Vader (in THE EMPIRE ORANGE)
STRIKES BACK) 13. HAL 9000 (in 2001: A SPACE
4. The Wicked Witch of the West (in ODYSSEY)
THE WIZARD OF OZ) 14. The Alien (in ALIEN)
5. Nurse Ratched (in ONE FLEW 15. Amon Goeth (in SCHINDLER’S
OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST) LIST)
6. Mr. Potter (in IT’S A 16. Noah Cross (in CHINATOWN)
WONDERFUL LIFE) 17. Annie Wilkes (in MISERY)
7. Alex Forrest (in FATAL 18. The Shark (in JAWS)
ATTRACTION) 19. Captain Bligh (in MUTINY ON
8. Phyllis Dietrichson (in DOUBLE THE BOUNTY)
INDEMNITY) 20. Man (in BAMBI)
9. Regan MacNeil (in THE
10. The Queen (in SNOW WHITE
AND THE SEVEN DWARFS)
5. Monster Polices
Borders of the Possible
Monster is a symbol of punishment for
going against societal taboos.
What are our societal taboos? Our
6. Fear of Monster is Really a Sort
We can project our own
needs (sex and death
drives) on them.
Since the monster is
disposable, we can kill off
the fears of those parts of
ourselves without guilt.
(unfortunately, as seen in
point 2, we don’t really rid
ourselves of them.)
The Victorian era was known for its sexual
repression. And Dracula… A guy who had
large fangs he plunged into virtuous white
maidens- drawing blood- and death. How
to kill him? A stake to the Heart.
7. Monster Stands at
Threshold of Becoming
We did it to ourselves.
We created them, and they are lurking
behind our doors.
of all Time?
Paradise Lost is an epic poem by the
17th-century English poet John Milton.
The poem concerns the Judeo-Christian
stories of the Fall of Lucifer and the Fall of
Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by
Lucifer (later named Satan) and their
expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Milton's purpose, stated in Book I, is "to
justify the ways of God to men."
The protagonist of this epic is the fallen angel,
Satan. Seen from a modern perspective, it may
appear to some that Milton presents Satan
sympathetically, as an ambitious and proud
being who defies his creator, omnipotent God,
and wages war on Heaven, only to be defeated
and cast down. Indeed, William Blake, a great
admirer of Milton and illustrator of the epic
poem, said of Milton that "he was a true Poet,
and of the Devil's party without knowing it.“
Some critics regard the character of Lucifer as a
precursor of the Byronic hero.
The latter half of the twentieth century saw the
critical understanding of Milton's epic shift to a
more political and philosophical focus. Rather
than the Romantic conception of the Devil as the
hero of the piece, it is generally accepted that
Satan is presented in terms that begin classically
heroic, then diminish him until he is finally
reduced to a dust-eating serpent unable even to
control his own body.
Paradise Lost and Frankenstein
The influence of Milton's Paradise
Lost can be seen directly from the
epigraph of the 1818 edition of
"Did I request thee, Maker from my
clay to mould me man? Did I solicit
thee, from darkness to promote me?"
The spirit of Paradise Lost
permeates Frankenstein throughout
the novel. At one point the monster
"The fallen angel becomes a
malignant devil. Yet even that enemy
of God and man had friends and
associates in his desolation; I am
Three parallel themes from the two works arise from
The molding of a living being from clay
The growth of malice and the desire for revenge
The isolation of the hostile being and the consequent
increase of his hostility
It is easy to establish Mary Shelley's knowledge of
Paradise Lost. The work was admired in the Godwin
household. Mary and Percy read it in 1815 and again in
November 1816. Her journal states that Shelley read it
aloud while she was writing Frankenstein. She even
incorporated Paradise Lost into the novel by having it be
one of the three works that the monster studies. The
monster finds a correlation between his condition and
the novel when he states:
“Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any
other human being...I was wretched, helpless and
alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter
emblem of my condition.”
Other echoes of Paradise Lost are as follows:
Frankenstein hopes to be the source of a new species,
but ironically his creature evolves into a self-
acknowledged Satan who swears eternal revenge and
war upon his creator and all the human race. The
monster reflects that Hell is an internal condition which is
produced and increased through loneliness. His only
salvation is the creation of a mate, his Eve.
In the later part of the book, Frankenstein refers to the
monster in terms used in Paradise Lost; the Fiend, the
Demon, the Devil, and Adversary. Both master and
creature are torn by their internal conflicts from
misapplied knowledge and their sense of isolation.
Paradise Lost and The Metamorphoses were two of the
sources of Mary Shelley's inspiration for Frankenstein;
she also heavily referenced the story of Prometheus.
The Modern Prometheus
The subtitle The Modern Prometheus refers to the figure
in Greek mythology who was said to have first created
Man from clay. In order to help Man, Prometheus stole
fire from Zeus.
Man was given an advantage over the animals since fire
allowed man to cook food, keep warm, and make
weapons and tools.
Prometheus was severely punished by Zeus who
chained him to a rock in the Caucasus. Every night,
Prometheus was visited by an eagle who ate his liver.
During the day, however, his liver grew back to its
Victor Frankenstein can indeed be seen as the modern
Prometheus. He defies the gods by creating life himself.
Instead of being the created, Victor takes God's place and
becomes the creator. Just as Prometheus, Victor gets
punished for his deeds. He is, however, punished by his
creation whereas Prometheus was punished by the god who
he stole from.
“Frankenstein” refers to Victor Frankenstein, the doctor, not the
monster he creates as so many movies have suggested.
A likely interpretation of the name Victor derives from the poem
Paradise Lost. Milton frequently refers to God as "the Victor" in
Paradise Lost, which Shelley obviously sees Victor as playing
God by creating life.
In addition, Shelley's portrayal of the monster owes much to
the character of Satan in Paradise Lost; indeed, the monster
says, after reading the epic poem, that he sympathizes with
Satan's role in the story.
Victor was also a pen name of Percy Shelley's, as in the
collection of poetry he wrote with his sister Elizabeth. There is
speculation that one of Mary Shelley's models for Victor
Frankenstein was Percy, who at Eton had "experimented with
electricity and magnetism as well as with gunpowder and
numerous chemical reactions," and whose rooms at Oxford
were filled with scientific equipment.
Could Victor be considered a monster?
So Who’s the Greater Monster?
The Monster or the Creator of
Here is someone who created a
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
1797 – 1851
She was the second child of the well-known
feminist, philosopher, educator, and writer Mary
Wollstonecraft and the first child of William
Godwin, the famous English philosopher,
novelist, and journalist.
She was married to the famous poet, Percy
William Godwin (1756 –
1836) was an English
philosopher and novelist.
prominently in the radical
circles of London in the
1790s. In the ensuing
conservative reaction to
British radicalism, Godwin
was attacked, in part
because of his marriage to
the pioneering feminist
writer Mary Wollstonecraft in
William Godwin (1756-1836) was the founder of philosophical
In his An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) he
argued that government is a corrupting force in society,
perpetuating dependence and ignorance, but that it will be
rendered increasingly unnecessary and powerless by the
gradual spread of knowledge. Politics will be displaced by an
enlarged personal morality as truth conquers error and mind
subordinates matter. In this development the rigorous
exercise of private judgment, and its candid expression in
public discussion, plays a central role, motivating his rejection
of a wide range of co-operative and rule-governed practices
which he regards as tending to mental enslavement, such as
law, private property, marriage and concerts.
Epitomizing the optimism of events in France at the time he
began writing, Godwin looked forward to a period in which the
dominance of mind over matter would be so complete that
mental perfectibility would take a physical form, allowing us to
control illness and ageing and become immortal.
He was a brilliant man
He wasn’t a brilliant father
He married a shrew who
had her own children, and
she didn’t like Mary.
She made Mary do all the
Finally, they sent Mary off
to Scotland to live with
another family who was
actually pretty nice.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797)
was an eighteenth-century British
writer, philosopher, and feminist.
During her brief career, she wrote
novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a
history of the French Revolution, a
conduct book, and a children's book.
Wollstonecraft is best known for A
Vindication of the Rights of Woman
(1792), in which she argues that
women are not naturally inferior to
men (!?), but appear to be only
because they lack education. She Mary’s Mother
suggests that both men and women
should be treated as rational beings
and imagines a social order founded
I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over
If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to
the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to
power, where are we to stop?
No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for
happiness, the good he seeks.
It appears to me impossible that I should cease to exist, or that this
active, restless spirit, equally alive to joy and sorrow, should be only
organized dust -- ready to fly abroad the moment the spring snaps,
or the spark goes out, which kept it together. Surely something
resides in this heart that is not perishable -- and life is more than a
The great feminist hero died ten days after
giving birth to Mary Shelley.
Mary may have grown up feeling
responsible for her mother’s death.
It’s rumored that Percy wooed Mary
at her mother’s gravesite. *HOT!*
Other Scandalous Bits
about The Courtship
Percy was married to Harriet Shelley (with whom he had
a daughter) while he courted Mary.
Mary was 17 when their relationship began.
They tried to elope while he was still married to Harriet.
Percy set up a group of friends who would share
everything (including sexual partners). He “took on”
Mary’s step-sister Claire. Mary refused to participate-
maybe because she was pregnant.
The Infamous Trip:
Mary, Percy, a challenge,
and that cad Byron
Mary brought her new son along as well as her
son, Claire, and other intellectuals.
They all challenged each other to a ghost story
Mary was the only one who took the contest
Her entry was based on a dream she had.
She was only 19.
Pics of Claire and Byron:
The Winning Contest Entry:
A chilling and brilliant tale of creation gone
horribly awry written by a young woman
who was probably still nursing the baby
son she had just created.
Upon Returning Home
Mary’s older half-sister, Fanny, took her
Percy’s wife (yes; he was still married),
Harriet, drowned herself in Hyde Park.
Percy and Mary married.
And After that…
Mary had some more children.
Most of Mary’s children died (she’d lost her first
already; the one who accompanied her on the
trip was her second. He died after they
Percy drowned at age 29.
She raised her remaining son, Percy Jr., with
love and devotion. They were close.
Eventually, she got sick and died at age 54.
The Premise of Frankenstein
Victor creates a monster.
He abandons his monster.
His monster is disobedient.
His monster destroys what Victor loves.
Perhaps Mary Shelley
looked down at that creation
of hers and was terrified.
Perhaps one’s parents often
look down at their own
creations, terrified that they
will destroy them.
But you would never wreak
havoc on your parents’
But Her Legacy Lives on…