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Menacing Monsters In &Quot;The Sea Raiders&Quot; By H. G. Wells

918 words - 4 pages

Human's infatuation with monsters bind the works on the English 23 syllabus into one common theme: monsters. Monsters have stood the test of time, and their stories continue to be one of the most common themes in fictional literature. All of the short stories and books assigned to English 23 are full of monsters: Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead, John Gardner's Grendel, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, and Mary Shelly's Frankenstein all have some sort of monster intertwined within their plots. A short story not listed on the syllabus that could very well fit the "monster" criteria for English 23 is "The Sea Raiders" by H. G. Wells.

The common definition of a monster is "an imaginary or legendary creature...that combines parts from various animal or human forms" or "a creature having a strange or frightening appearance" ("Monster"). Monsters do not have to be legendary or imaginary to be a monster though; they just need to be different from what humans consider normal: they need to be strange. The strange is menacing because it looms in the future of man. Wells masterfully transforms some of man's oldest terrors- the fear of darkness, monstrous beasts, giants and ogres- into an evolutionary perspective that is supposed to be reinforced by Darwinian biology (Suvin 24). Basically, Wells intends for the monsters he creates to be believable through his use of extensive detail. The only catalyst needed to turn a seemingly ordinary creature into a "monster" is for it to assert some sort of threat toward man. This means any living thing that is new or unusual can become a monster if it attacks, hurts, or kills someone, even in self-defense or through biological predispositions, i.e. - hunting for food. It is these biological predispositions that create the particular monsters in "The Sea Raiders."

"The Sea Raiders" is a short story about a new, fictional "species" of sea octopus discovered by humans, called Haploteuthis ferox. The creatures begin to appear on the shore of a small English coastal village where they are seen feeding on the rotting bodies of humans. One man discovers these creatures while taking a stroll on the beach, and sees the terrible sight. The description of these creatures paints a horrific picture in the reader's mind:

ghastly looking creatures, in shape somewhat resembling an octopus, and with huge and very long and flexible tentacles...The skin had a glistening texture, unpleasant to see, like shiny leather. The downward bend of the tentacle-surrounded mouth, the curious excrescence at the bend, the tentacles, and the large intelligent eyes, gave the creatures a grotesque suggestion of a face. They were the size of a fair-sized swine about the body, and the tentacles seemed...many feet in length. (Wells 412)

The grotesque description sets the creatures apart from man as something new and different, and...

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