When applied to literature, the idea of a ‘monster’ becomes even more complicated because of the figurative and metaphorical and imaginative applications allowed by prose; a novel might contain a beast that is literally a monster in the most common use of the word, a fantastical creature with frequently violent and frightening attributes. In this essay, I will examine the works of three authors and the monsters within them: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
To begin, it is important to deconstruct the common associations and applications of the term ‘monster,’ the first of which is that monsters are emphatically and definitively bad, which, again is a subjective term open to personal interpretation and evaluation against a particular standard of moral ethics and beliefs. Because ‘bad’ is subjective, it stands to reason that making a blanket definition of monsters as ‘bad’ is not only reductive but also markedly untrue and simplistic. A careful reading of these three novels supports this claim. The monsters in these novels are not simply “bad,” but rather are malleable authorial devices used to shed light on a particular thematic or social concern.
Another important consideration is author intentionality. What did each of the authors intend for the reader to believe about monsters? Stoker offers a distinct element of reality by presenting Dracula within the framework of an epistolary novel supplemented by newspaper clippings and journal entries. The multiple narrators serve as almost a scientific peer review, each of the independent voices reaffirming the existence of Dracula. The realism adds to the fright.
The novel highlights and plays upon a common fear of the time, which was an invasion of England or the modern,