When I think about why we create monsters, I think about our insatiable need to have control in our lives. Since the dawn of time, we have tried to conquer the world around us; from simple grain that later would become essential crops, to domesticating great beasts that would provide us nourishment. Even geography has been no match for us as we bridge rivers and carve into mountains. Controlling things is at the root of what makes us humans, and we have a deep, continuous need to manipulate our world for our own needs. I look at the monsters discussed in Chapter One; Frankenstein’s monster, Godzilla, zombies, and vampires they are all metaphors for deeper issues, yes, but they all have one other thing in common-they are all wild.
The very first essay, Why We Crave Monsters by Stephen King, suggests that the monsters we create are embodiments of the thoughts, emotions, and fears that are not acceptable in civilized society. He further suggests that our newly created monsters need to be cared for; to be allowed to “roll around in the grass”. King, whether he realizes it or not, is suggesting that our monsters are uninhibited and it is our job as their creators to give them order. A job we as humans gleefully accept as controlling things is our specialty.
Consider Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley’s story of Frankenstein’s monster. The story itself is a prime example of how we humans like to pretend we are Gods rather than men and women. In her tale, Dr. Frankenstein pieces together a so called man from the rotting flesh of the dead. To the Dr., the idea of recreating life from death maintains it’s grandeur until the “man” finally rises and earns his title of Monster. The Dr. not only tries to control life in the mere conception of reanimating dead flesh, but also in the scene in which the monster forces his way into Frankenstein’s room. The Dr. is desperate to be in control.
Detaching ourselves from the story of Frankenstein’s monster, let us now examine the author herself. Shelley created this monster out of her thirst to control what is uncontrollable. An excerpt from Frankenstein: A Cultural History by Susan Tyler Hitchcock reveals some of the events that may have influenced Shelley into creating such a horrific and untamable thing. Hitchcock reveals that Shelley was not only a mother to an infant during the story’s conception, but also dealing with grief of a previous lost child. Additionally, factors such as the complex relationship she maintained with the father of her son, and erratic weather mused Shelley to create a vessel to house them all. This vessel, Frankenstein’s monster, is Shelley’s attempt in controlling the world around us.
As Chapter One continues we see other examples of our created monsters being wild and unruly. Zombies are mentioned as being slow and unintelligent; needing order and repetition to be properly subdued. Even our beloved vampires are mentioned in this chapter as being feral in their search for blood and lust. In the vampires’ case we create strict limits to control their behavior; only coming out at night, aversion to garlic and all things holy. We create these monsters because the first essay, by King, in this chapter couldn’t be more right, in my opinion. Monsters are created because we aren’t allowed to run around fulfilling the disturbing, rude, or lustful notions we inevitably have. We need to gather these notions up and control them so they may not destroy our lives.
What is interesting to me is that so far all the monsters mentioned in this chapter are of the fantastic kind. That is to say that Shelley’s monster was exceptionally tall and hideous, and that vampires were strikingly attractive which empowered their seductiveness. It is easy to detach ourselves from the monsters mentioned and reintegrate into contemporary life. I am anxious to read about the monsters we create that are not as obvious in not belonging to our world. How do we detach ourselves then? If King’s essay is as spot on as I believe it to be, then the monsters whose gateways from their world to ours are a little thinner also need to be let out of their cages once in a while, for the necessary maintenance of “proper muscle tone”. When that happens, what happens to our reality? In the upcoming chapters, I hope to find out if my question has an answer and how it relates to my own monster creations in need of exercise.