The Monster is an 1898 novella by American author Stephen Crane (1871-1900). The story takes place in the small, fictional town of Whilomville, New York. An African-American coachman named Henry Johnson, who is employed by the town's physician, Dr. Trescott, becomes horribly disfigured after he saves Trescott's son from a fire. When Henry is branded a "monster" by the town's residents, Trescott vows to shelter and care for him, resulting in his family's exclusion from the community. The novella reflects upon the 19th-century social divide and ethnic tensions in America.
The fictional town of Whilomville, which is used in 14 other Crane stories, was based on Port Jervis, New York, where Crane lived with his family for a few years during his youth. It is thought that he took inspiration from several local men who were similarly disfigured, although modern critics have made numerous connections between the story and the 1892 lynching in Port Jervis of an African-American man named Robert Lewis. A study of prejudice, fear, and isolation in a rather small town, the novella was first published in Harper's Magazine in August 1898. A year later, it was included in The Monster and Other Stories-the last collection of Crane's work to be published during his lifetime.
Written in a more exact and less dramatic style than two of his previous major works (Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and The Red Badge of Courage), The Monster differs from the other Whilomville stories in its scope and length. Its themes include the paradoxical study of monstrosity and deformity, as well as race and tolerance. While the novella and collection received mixed reviews from contemporary critics, The Monster is now considered one of Crane's best works.
PLOT:After being admonished by his father, Dr. Ned Trescott, for damaging a peony while playing in his family's yard, young Jimmie Trescott visits his family's coachman, Henry Johnson. Henry, who is described as "a very handsome negro", "known to be a light, a weight, and an eminence in the suburb of the town", is friendly toward Jimmie. Later that evening Henry dresses smartly and saunters through town-inciting catcalls from friends and ridicule from the local white men-on his way to call on the young Bella Farragut, who is extremely taken with him.
That same evening, a large crowd gathers in the park to hear a band play. Suddenly, the nearby factory whistle blows to alert the townspeople of a fire in the second district of the town; men gather hose-carts and head toward the blaze that is quickly spreading throughout Dr. Trescott's house. Mrs. Trescott is saved by a neighbor, but cannot locate Jimmie, who is trapped inside. Henry appears from the crowd and rushes into the house in search of the boy, finding him unharmed in his bedroom. Unable to retreat the way he came, Henry carries Jimmie, wrapped in a blanket, to the doctor's laboratory and the hidden stairway that leads outside. He discovers the fire has blocked this way out as well and collapses beside Dr. Trescott's desk. A row of nearby jars shatters from the heat, spilling molten chemicals upon Henry's upturned face.....
Stephen Crane (November 1, 1871 - June 5, 1900) was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Prolific throughout his short life, he wrote notable works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. He is recognized by modern critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation....
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