Thursday, September 22, 2011

Expected Rejection Doesn't Hurt Any Less

As the monster recounts his interactions with the De Laceys, he concludes his tale with disappointment and frustrated rage. After believing for so long that the De Laceys are the key to his salvation, the monster is violently rejected. To complement this, Lynd Ward provides an illustration of the confrontation between the De Laceys and the monster. In it, he interprets the superiority of the humans over the monster.

The fact that the monster purposely revealed himself to De Lacey while his children were away suggests that he already suspected the possibility of being rejected. No matter how virtuous and loving he believed them to be, his fears overpowered him. He’d already been shunned by the rest of society, so it only made sense that he would want to protect himself from further rejection. Hoping to use De Lacey as a means to get his foot in the door literally and figuratively, he tried to strategize a favorable outcome. Unfortunately, he was unable to succeed before Felix, Agatha and Safie returned.

According to the text, the De Laceys are shocked to discover the monster in their home. Ward illustrates Felix attacking him to force his retreat. While he is physically not as strong as the monster, Shelley states that he utilizes superhuman force to separate the monster from his father. “Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung: in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground, and struck me violently with a stick” (pg 151, Shelley). Ward does not represent this strength of Felix’s by portraying him with bulging muscles liken to the monster’s, but rather through the facial expression on his face. Felix is portrayed as being merciless. He is poised to attack with a blank determined expression in his eyes. It is as if he refuses to acknowledge the monster on a personal level. He doesn’t want to give the monster a chance to explain himself. Rather, like a bug on the wall, the quicker he can eradicate what he deems a threat, the less time he has to think about it. He doesn’t even look the monster in the face, but rather diverts his attention to something or somewhere outside the illustration. In that aspect he doesn’t seem human.

The perspective you see the image in is from the ground looking up at Felix. Therefore the viewer is given the perspective of the monster. Here is another demonstration Ward provides of the superiority of humans: Felix literally towers above the monster lying on the ground. The monster is distraught, reaching up to defend himself from the blows. He can easily overpower them, but he wants to be accepted by choice, not forced submission. He isn’t so much shocked at their reaction since he took precaution when approaching De Lacey alone. But he is emotionally defeated when his worse fears of being rejected by his “friends” becomes a reality. In the image the monster is depicted as the victim to the violence and misunderstanding of humans. It further denotes the ironic circumstance between the monster and society. Although he is superior to the human race and fully capable of overcoming Felix, the monster still aspires to be like humans. So much so that he would allow Felix to beat him rather than turn savage and fight back.

De Lacey is curiously absent from the scene both in the text and in the illustration. I considered him to be an important figure because he seemed the most promising figure to accept the monster. But once his children return and Felix starts beating him, we hear no more from De Lacey. Ward keeps this in mind as he also excludes a depiction of De Lacey. While reading the text, I found it odd that De Lacey kept quiet while the confrontation was taking place. Given that he is blind, he would have been wondering what was carrying on and why his son was attacking their guest. I think Ward was clever in not including De Lacey because by doing so he further separates the monster from the only possible friend he could have had. The monster is truly alone, abandoned to the ignorant hatred of society.

Lynd Ward’s illustration is a depiction of the monster’s yearning to be accepted by the human race. He accurately portrays his emotions and society’s response. But despite his attempts and pleas, the monster is once again rejected.


  1. I really like your detailed description and interpretation of Ward's image depicting the exchange between the monster and the De Laceys. I feel like this is the start of a really good paper, especially the parts where you interpret WHY Ward made the artistic choices that he did (example where you explain why he chose to show us a view looking up and also why didn't include De Lacey in the image).

    My suggestions for improving your article are as follows. First remember that an essay is an argument, which means you need to identify a question and state a clear position which you will defend. All the interpretive work you have done will act as support of your argument, but right now you don't have a thesis to support.

    A great next step would be to try to decide what Ward wants us to feel/think from seeing this image, then decide what argument he is making. Once you decide what YOU think he is really saying, use all your descriptive evidence to support your theory.

  2. This is very good material, and I was interested and engaged through the whole thing. I could go through and explain *why* I liked each part, but a couple example will suffice. Your attention both to the role of perspective here and to Felix's facial expression show excellent attention to detail - relevant details. You are also engaged thoroughly with the weird absence of the older De Lacey himself, which I found very insightful.

    As Anthony tries to indicate, though, I think that your focus is imperfect. You start out with the idea of "superiority" and end on "rejection." Both are big, complicated ideas in what is ultimately a narrowly focused essay on a particular moment in the text, which are not really defined.

    What do I mean? I mean, for instance, that your analysis of perspective and superiority is fantastic - and yet we know that the monster is superior in many conventional ways. It may be, as you imply, Felix's cruelty that makes him "superior" - so is this a down-is-up argument in which you're arguing that the monster is inferior/inhuman precisely because he lacks the humanity/cruelty/casting-outsiders-out-drive of Felix?

    I hope that made some kind of sense. Basically I'm arguing that a more focused argument is beginning to emerge here, which is more directly rooted in the ideas of superiority, rejection, and especially perspective you bring up. How can you bring it all together?

    Also, what do you make of the way the two women are portrayed in the picture?