Monster Culture by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen Book Review


In the two stories, Some People are Meant to Live Alone and The Werewolf,  Cohen’s Monster theory that Monster dwells at the gates of difference is prevalent in two characters in both of the stories. In Collymore’s story, Some People are Meant to Live Alone, Collymore explores how lapse of judgment often misleads one’s opinion of a person. A young boy’s uncle who lives alone seems to be a fearful person. Once the young boy gets to know his uncle he begins to see he is not as scary as society plays him out to be until his uncle reveals he is a murderer. In Carter’s story, The Werewolf, a society dominated by fear, turns to violence when a young girl’s grandmother is possessed by a werewolf. Society chooses to kill the old lady, dismissing that in reality, the werewolf is her grandma. Both authors explore the concept that sometimes, people are not who they seem to be and that society classifies normal actions, often leading to those who deviate from the norm becoming isolated and feared.

First off, in Some People are Meant to Live Alone, the initial lapse of judgment gave off the wrong impression. Collymore displays this concept by having Uncle Authur be a cold character at the beginning of the story, with mystery and little known about him. The author was able to link the theme that some people are not really who they seem to be. At the beginning of the story, Bill’s mother uses Uncle Arthur as a threat of Punishment, creating fear of him within Bill and his siblings: ”A week with uncle Arthur will do you good. Not that Uncle Arthur was especially ogre-like or repulsive to our childish eyes. Farm from it-it was the fact that he lived alone-”(Collymore 1). Curious about Uncle Arthur, Bill decided to visit him. Bill’s initial assumptions and perception of Uncle Arthur change as he begins to get talk and get to know about him. Bill describes how he first sees his Uncle: “Presently I was aware of two eyes peering at me through the broken flap of the jealous” (Collymore 3). Uncle Arthur is being described as a traditional monster “two eyes peering” by Bill. However, at the end of his visit, his idea is shifted as Uncle Arthur and Bill get to know one another: “I noticed for the first time that his face took on on an impish, delightfully humorous expression when he smiles. I felt thoroughly at ease” (Collymore 4). Bill realizes everything said about his Uncle by his mother and his initial thoughts of him were wrong, Bill turns out to realize his uncle is rather sincere and shy, not at all a monster. As the story progresses, the bond between Bill and his uncle also does. Uncle opens up to him about his life, and as to why he chooses to live alone which reveals to Bill his uncle was a murder: “I told you I wasn’t much good at telling a story. Ah well, I suppose I had to tell somebody sometime. Strange, you know I have never felt the slightest twinge of conscience. I'd do the same tomorrow in such circumstance” (Collymore 8). Just as Bill began to understand his uncle, beginning to believe society was wrong to fear his uncle and living alone, he realizes that the good man he began to see while talking to his uncle and getting to know him did not actually exist.

Secondly, in “The Werewolf”, Carter uses similar character concepts from the well-known fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood”, to show how in a world so cruel and violent, one so innocent is to react in a non expected way. A young girl who has been taught to obey society's orders is getting ready to visit her ill grandmother: “The good child does as her mother bids--five miles' trudge through the forest; do not leave the path because of the bears, the wild boar, the starving wolves. Here, take your father's hunting knife; you know how to use it” (Carter 1).  The young girl has been taught from a young age to not only obey what society tells her to do, but also to react in violence. As the story develops, the little girl, at last, finds herself at her grandmother's house. When reaching her grandma’s house and greeting her grandmother she notices something off about her grandma: “They knew the wart on the hand at once for a witches nipple; they drove the old women in her shift as she was, out into the snow with sticks, beating her old carcass as far as the edge of the forest, and pelted her with stones until she fell down dead” (Carter 2).  The society's violent reaction to their fear, ties to why the young girl was so deeply overwhelmed by the teaching of her society, that those who do not fit into the ideals of society should be taken out. She jumped to a lapse of judgment when finding her grandmother to be ill. Rigged with fear, the young girl and neighbors killed the grandma. Her violence was appealing to society, which demonstrated the society’s standards of terminating something that stood out, rather than blended into society.

In both stories, Some People are Meant to Live Alone and The Werewolf, the Monster these  #4 is displayed. Some People are Meant to Live Alone, creates a monster that society fears, based on the impression of choosing to live alone. The Werewolf details how one who is feared by society does not belong.  Although in both these stories, the authors create monsters that differentiate from society, the author’s meaning goes deeper. By creating monsters who dwell at the gates of difference, the two authors are showing that the monsters, in reality, are not the ones who strangely stick out in society, but the real monsters are rather those in society who chose to fear those who are different. In conclusion, Some People are Meant to Live Alone and The Werewolf relate to one another by showing that those who deviate from the social “normare to be isolated and feared.

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