The Monster in the Mirror: Challenging the Glorification of Humanity in Human and Monster Literature
Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
monsters, humanity, morals, adversity, archetype
Earlier scholars have claimed that literary monsters merely serve the purposes of celebrating the human’s triumph over adversity. I contest this claim in my close analysis of Homer’s The Odyssey, the medieval epic Beowulf, and the Hannibal Lecter series of novels by twentieth‐century American author Thomas Harris. I show that each author uses monsters not to convey human dominance over their ability to defeat the monster but rather to reveal the monstrous flaws found within all of humanity: coveting, vengeance, and hybris. My analysis of these flaws shows how society’s willingness to admit our monstrosity progresses from Homer to Harris. Homer shows that flaws make humans less morally superior to other creatures such as monsters and places humans and monsters on the same wavelength in terms of their social status. The Beowulf poet uses these shared characteristics to establish a parallel between his dominant humans and social outcast monsters, who both desire power, essentially acknowledging that humans have monstrous qualities. Thomas Harris takes this concept to the next level. He asserts that all humans by nature are capable of becoming monsters. Whether or not society is ready to hear it, each author challenges our notions of what it means to be human and warns us against becoming monsters.
Squire, Hanna, "The Monster in the Mirror: Challenging the Glorification of Humanity in Human and Monster Literature" (2012). Honors Theses. 904.