There is comfort in routine, rules, and social standards; monsters disrupt this comfort. Social standards are actions and characteristics that are accepted and considered normal by the majority of the people in a society. Monsters are creatures that have character traits that bluntly differ from the social standard of society. People consider monsters evil because when something is different it makes people feel intense emotions, which can be distressing. Monsters usually make people feel the sublime because, as a result of monsters’ abnormality, humans find themselves scared of the unknown. By studying monsters humans can find what character traits make them feel the sublime in the form of intense fear and emotions. Learning about monsters people can learn about themselves. Monsters are the embodiment of all of the character traits that people find negative. In literature monsters can be created by giving monstrous characteristics to a fictional character. Monsters are the ultimate enemy to humans because they threaten human freedom, confuse humans with their abnormality, and are uncontrollable to society.
A monster is threatening because it makes people fearful of being limited. Humans become scared of things that are able to hurt them. It is instinct to despise anything that causes, or could cause, one pain. English philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill spoke about human nature: “The principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any number, is self-protection” (Mill, 46). Mill said that the main value of mankind is to maintain one's freedom. Therefore, anything that goes against the main principle of human existence must be viewed as an enemy. Monsters threaten human freedom, the main principle of human existence. In the novel Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, Dr. Victor Frankenstein creates a form of life that he views as a monster because he finds it threatening to his freedom: “I beheld the wretch-- the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs” (Shelley 59). The creature that Frankenstein created is simply looking to hug his creator. However, Frankenstein thinks that the creature is trying to limit his physical freedoms and potentially harm him, making the creature a monster in Frankenstein eyes.Humans view something as a monster whenever they think it will limit their freedom, even if in reality it will not.
A monster is completely different from what the people in a society are used to, causing people fear and confusion.People are afraid of that is different because they fear the unknown; when something is confusing, it can become monstrous. In Freud and the Structure of the Psyche, The id is a part of the human brain driven by instinct and desires. The id defies all logic and reason:”The laws of logic above all, the laws of contradiction--do not hold for processes in the id” “Naturally, the id knows no values,no good and evil, no morality”. (Freud 71). According to Freud, the id is a part of the mind that is not able to process reason or logic, making it unable to conform to all social standards. This makes the id a monster because when something is illogical it can be confusing and potentially dangerous to society. It can be dangerous because as a result of the id not having morality it may do something that is against social standards or the common idea of morality. Going against social standards or morality would invoke fear in all of the people in the society. In the Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman, an American feminist, the yellow wallpaper represents a monster. The narrator is a mentally ill women living in a room with wallpaper that distresses her. The yellow wallpaper is a monster because it is confusing to the narrator: “It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke studies”(Gilman 77). The complex illogical patterns in the wallpaper make the narrator confused and uncomfortable. This discomfort makes the narrator despise the wallpaper and think of it as a monster. The monster in Frankenstein, similar to the wallpaper, is confusing to the human eye: “How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form. His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes…” (Shelly 58). The monster’s strange appearance is different than anything that Frankenstein has ever seen before. This makes Frankenstein confused because he does not know what to do with this new and abnormal creature. As a result of these feelings Frankenstein views his creation as a monster because of its confusing nature.
Humans naturally want to be in control because uncontrollable things can be dangerous and have the potential to hurt them. According to Freud, the id is not in human control : ”We suppose that it is somewhere in direct contact with somatic processes, and it takes over from them instinctual needs and gives them mental expression...The id cannot be controlled beyond certain limits” (Freud 71-74). The id creates emotions and desires inside of someone that cannot be controlled. These emotions and desires could compel one to do something dangerous or against social standards. This makes people consider some of their desires monsters because they are uncomfortable with the fact that they have strange or even dangerous desires that cannot be controlled. In Frankenstein, the creature Frankenstein creates feels emotions that he cannot control: “The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind. But the agony of my wound overcame me; my pulses paused, and I fainted.” (Shelley,19-20). The creature has uncontrollable emotions. He feels uncontrollable anger and hatred toward Frankenstein making him wish to seek revenge. The creature realises that his emotions are dangerous and evil because they are not in his control and lead to misfortune. The creatures uncontrollable emotions overpower him making him unable to be like other humans in society because he wants to kill. This abnormality makes him a monster. All things that are out of control are dangerous making them monstrous.
Monsters are the ultimate enemy to humans because they threaten human freedom, confuse humans with their abnormality, and are uncontrollable to society. All of these characteristics have one thing in common: they are out of the ordinary. Many authors have been able to identify what makes them feel fear and discomfort, and from these discoveries they create fictional monsters. These monsters in literature are universally thought to be monsters because they embody all of the characteristics that society finds abnormal and unacceptable. By using monsters in literature both the reader and the author can be entertained with their emotions. Humans avoid what they consider to be monsters because the monsters are unknown and different. Humans are scared of things that they do not find normal.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Robin Waterfield. Frankenstein. N.p.: Puffin, 1994. Print.
Freud, Sigmund, “The Structure of The Psyche.” ed Jake Child and Diana Toebbe. Annapolis: The Key School, 2015, vol. 3. print.
Gilman, Charlotte, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” ed Jake Child and Diana Toebbe. Annapolis: The Key School, 2015, vol. 3. print.
Mill, John, “On Liberty.” ed Jake Child and Diana Toebbe. Annapolis: The Key School, 2015, vol. 3. print.