After reading “The Monster” by Stephen Crane, I believed it to be an extremely insightful portrayal of the negative consequences of mob mentality and small-town pettiness rooted in prejudice against people who are disfigured. The title of the story itself has multiple meanings that reflects the story and theme.
The story starts off by explaining the characters and the plot. Henry Johnson is the black coachman of Dr. Trescott. It is about how Henry saves the young son, Jimmie Trescott from a horrific fire that destroyed the doctor’s home. Unfortunately, from saving Jimmie from the fire, Henry loses his mental capacity and his face becomes horrifically disfigured. Dr. Trescott decides to treat the injured man out of gratitude for saving his son’s life. Judge Denning Hagenthorpe, a leading figure in town, urges Dr. Trescott to let Henry die, stating that he “will hereafter be a monster, a perfect monster, and probably with an affected brain. No man can observe you as I have observed you and not know that it was a matter of conscience with you, but I am afraid, my friend, that it is one of the blunders of virtue.” Dr. Trescott decided to move Henry into a local negro home but Henry’s physical appearance was too much of an disturbance to the family and was moved to another. Henry would roam around town, visiting various people and leaving them frightened. Dr. Trescott decided to bring Henry back into the Trescott’s newly build house. Eventually, Henry is branded a monster by the townspeople that lead to the Trescotts being avoided. Even Jimmie mocks him fulfilling his friend’s dare even though Henry and Jimmie were once friends. Dr. Trescott loses his reputation as the leading doctor of Whilomville and his wife, who once always had visitors, no longer receives visitors.
Henry is seen as a monster both literally and figuratively. Henry is referred as the monster because of his monstrous scarred features. The story holds a paradoxical theme of deformity and monstrosity. Not only does Henry Johnson suffer a literal and physical defacement that brands him a monster, but the Trescotts’ suffer a metaphorical loss of face when they are cast out by society with Dr. Trescott losing his reputation and his wife losing her friends due to Dr. Trescott’s moral sense of obligation takes over making Henry a figurative monster. Yet both of them suffer from this moral behavior, Henry saving Jimmie and Dr. Trescott saving Henry. From a moral point of view, I believe that Henry is not a monster after saving Dr. Trescott’s son. The monsters are not the ugly ones but the morally prejudice ones. The townspeople’s actions make them more monstrous than the man they shun for his deformity, reflecting the theme of monstrosity. The loss of Henry’s face also serves as a metaphor for a dramatic loss, not his own but the true face of the townspeople. The true face of the unkindness of the townspeople is revealed which is no face of kindness, it’s nothing. Their humanity is lost simply because they do not want to tolerate a man who looks monstrous just for saving a child.
I would like to see this picture above as the story’s cover art. It is a picture of Henry saving Jimmie out of the burning house. This exact scene is where everything changes for everyone. Henry saves Jimmie from a horrific event but to everyone, Henry becomes a monster and is not seen as the hero. In the picture, we can’t see Henry’s face and how he looks like which perfectly foreshadows that very event that is happening in that scene. Henry loses his face from saving the boy when really, after the outcomes, the townspeople’s humanity is lost. We truly don’t know a person until we see their actions and their true colors.