The Monster

First edition of The Monster and Other Stories

The Monster is an 1898 novella by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900), a study of prejudice, fear and isolation in a small town. In the fictional 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. Whilomville, which is used in 14 other Crane stories, was based on Port Jervis, New York, where he spent part of his youth. He probably took inspiration from several local men who were similarly disfigured. Modern critics have connected themes of racial division in the story to the 1892 lynching in Port Jervis of an African-American man named Robert Lewis. The novella was included in The Monster and Other Stories—the last collection of Crane’s work to be published during his lifetime. Both the novella and the collection received mixed reviews from critics, but The Monster is now considered one of Crane’s best works.

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