Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Fall 2018

Department 1



What is a monster? For contemporary readers, monsters conjure images of things from horror films. My capstone addresses the question of whether monsters, the monstrous, and monstrosity are inside the human or elsewhere. I argue that monsters, when compared side-by-side in literature, are fundamentally the same with some exceptions: evil behind a human body. Through close-reading and theoretical analyses of 19th-century texts, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Stephen Crane’s The Monster, I examine how their authors create monsters as a response to societal anxieties and fears. My capstone expands on passages where human characters surrender to their internal monsters to prove an authorial need to mirror a monstrous society. By exploring themes of obsession and knowledge, I claim that textual monsters are mere manifestations of who we are in reality. I have divided my capstone into chapters that take turns surveying what it takes to become a monster. I conclude with a brief, but broader discussion of contemporary monsters to bridge 19th-century literature to its modern-day counterpart. In the end, I ultimately posit that we are no less monstrous than monsters on the page.


Written for English 404 Seminar: American Literature

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.