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monster essay - 10 April 2008 Professor Jeremy Green ENGL...

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10 April 2008 Professor Jeremy Green ENGL 4365 The Hybrid Fable, “The Monster” Link to Stephen Crane's "The Monster" Full Text Stephen Crane’s short story “The Monster” is a polyvalent narrative encompassing different genres creating a “hybrid” text very difficult to categorize. One genre “The Monster” appropriately fits into is the fable as the story incorporates qualities of supernatural, myth, and legend. It is a fable of transformation and backwards progression saturated with racial inequalities. The protagonist, Henry Johnson, undergoes the transformation into a heroic figure, changing from “belle” to “saint” and then falling into a fragmented state and known merely as a “monster.” As Henry Johnson changes, he exhibits different elements of the fable, the story changes concurrently with Henry, fluidly morphing from the supernatural to the legendary. Despite the hybrid- nature of the story, Henry Johnson’s character remains an object of ridicule and racial prejudice. Crane does not appear to offer any sort of radical message of change, but merely comments on the social construction of racism and its application to a small town setting. A fable is a “story, typically a supernatural one incorporating elements of myth and legend.” A fable often invokes animals as characters conveying a moral message (dictionary.com). In “Responding to Crane’s The Monster,” Ronald K. Giles argues that Henry Johnson undergoes a “metaphorical change...from belle to priest” (45). Giles refers to the passage, “No belle of a court circle could bestow more mind on a toilet than 1
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did Johnson. On second thought, he was more like a priest arraying himself for some parade of the church”(Crane, 395). Johnson’s occupation is to groom the horses and to keep the wagon equipment clean for Doctor Trescott and his family; he also serves as a figure of spectacle for the town with his appearance. He takes great “care” in the way he presents himself to the town, “As he emerged from his room and sauntered down the carriage drive, no one would have suspected him of ever having washed a buggy” (395).
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