3/9: “The Monster” by Stephen Crane (Part II)

Like any community, there are secrets that torture souls and change lives forever. “The Monster” by Stephen Crane, we see how a community’s true face is revealed and the people are turned into monsters. Based on a deeper understanding, many facts denies that Henry was a monster and details pointing to the townspeople showed that they were the one being monsters during the whole time. This story is an insightful portrayal of the negative consequences of mob mentality and small-town pettiness rooted in prejudice against people who is in a way different from the town.

Mob mentality describes how people are influenced by their surroundings to adopt certain behaviors and follow certain trends. In the story, we really only know the Trescott family and everyone else is just known through their place in a larger group. They are always referred to as the “townspeople” as a collective noun. Rumors spread about the Trescott and Henry and even when they confront them, they do it in a group. The children including Jimmie, who was once Henry’s friend, also gang up on Henry. Just because a certain group feels a certain way about something, the rest will follow them like Jimmie did. He turns his back on the man that saved his life and adopts the mentality of the townspeople.

The title of the story itself has multiple meanings. It refers to Henry Johnson who had a monstrous appearance after he risked his life to save Dr. Trescott’s son from certain death. It also refers to the town seeing Dr. Trescott as a monster for not letting Henry die. In reality, neither Henry nor Dr. Trescott is a monster from a moral point f view, since Henry saves Dr. Trescott’s son and Dr. Trescott saves Henry. We learn that the worst monsters are not the ugly ones but the morally prejudiced ones, such as Jake Winter and Judge Hagenthorpe. Crane aimed to show that the townspeople were cruel to the man they all thought died doing a heroic deed.

The idea of mob mentality exists everywhere in our society today. When I think of mob mentality, I think of high school, especially from the movie “Mean Girls” because it is a perfect example of contemporary mob mentality. This movie shows the typical stereotype of cliques such as the nerds, the jocks, the Goths, and popular kids. Kids in high school easily fall into a group which they feel like they fit in and does everything in that group that they do. They will dress like them, talk like them, and act like them. Instead of having their own individual identity, they would stay within their group and have a collective opinion together like the townspeople did towards the Trescott and Henry. This is an example of bullying and because of this, it creates a monster inside them and shows the ugly side of them. When we are not ourselves, we turn ourselves into monster by just following with others and not giving ourselves a unique identity.

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2 thoughts on “3/9: “The Monster” by Stephen Crane (Part II)

  1. I really like how you related “The Monster” to “Mean Girls.” “Mean Girls” is actually one of my favorite movies and a great example of mob mentality. Almost everyone follows whatever Regina George does even though she is a horrible person and only cares about herself. People at North Shore High School are too afraid to speak out against her because no one will back them up and ultimately they will be isolated and alone.

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  2. It reminds me of the sarcastic saying… “If everybody else jumped off the bridge, would you do it?” Essentially everybody is following suit, because people don’t like to feel left out. People have a need to be wanted and accepted into society. At what cost? The cost of another human life? At the cost of a man who sacrificed his external presence for the life of a child. It is sad, but very true.

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