What’s the Monster’s Purpose?

Issue 14: April 5, 2023

Monsters in literature occupy their own special niche. It is especially interesting to read about these fictional beings and see that readers become drawn to them. This may be because ghosts, goblins, and monsters are the most interesting creatures. We want horror and excitement. We want the thrill of a life-threatening force out to kill us and we also want to know we’re smart enough to beat the monster or at the very least are smart enough to escape it so that someone else can battle it on another day. Monsters spark our imagination and seem really fascinating when reading about monsters and become part of the story or becoming the character when we read. We may see monsters as fun and interesting to read about but I believe there is a deeper meaning to the monsters that these authors have and continue to write about.

There is a connection that monsters bring that can even be related back to humans and their behavior and mind. Monsters represent the unknown, our deepest fears, and the eventual death that we all face. Throughout history, there are countless examples of monsters. Some of our most well-known monsters come from an age in which the world was still surrounded in darkness, counting nameless fears in the dark. Monsters can also be symbolic or emotional manifestations. Sometimes monsters don’t need to interact with the characters at all. The characters build the fear around the idea of the monster themselves, which can amplify the terror that readers and viewers feel along with them. Monsters often serve as symbols of people’s deep-rooted anxieties and repressed thoughts. Some monsters have a backstory that describes how they became evil or deformed. Physically, monsters can display some unnatural human or animal traits. A monster can even mirror one’s deepest fears such as a virus, the monster becomes the virus because it is that specific person’s deepest fear. Monsters are tailored towards the specific character they may be targeting at a certain time. Which can also target the consumer. Monster theory studies their differences to understand these anxieties and teach lessons upon humanity. Using the psychoanalytic notion of projection, these monsters are understood as representing human anxieties regarding the dehumanizing tendencies of science and reason, and regarding a perceived transformation in human nature Society creates its own monsters and embeds them with meaning such as what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behavior, making monsters the ‘Other’.

Monsters are a huge topic that I have learned to love. It is difficult at times to figure out whether or not there is an underlying message to the monsters and the story or if it is just a story meant for fictional fun that doesn’t have a real message at all. As a reader I always try to find the underlying meaning of what the monster symbolizes but when I asked a few other people they replied with “I just like to read the stories for fun”. I think that it is different for every reader when they are enjoying a story. How do you feel about the monsters in your favorite books, television shows, or movies?