Monstrosity: How Does Society Define It?

4098 words - 16 pages

Monsters, mutants, oddities, weirdos, and freaks are terms associated with people with deformities. A person with a deformity was usually considered a monstrosity. In society, the focus of monstrosity has been commonly external and the internal aspects have become an accepted lifestyle if one’s external appearance is beautiful by society’s standards. If one is considered a monstrosity, their personality is usually portrayed as evil and wicked. In Tod Robbin’s 1923 book Spurs and Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks, the damaging effects of external and internal monstrosity are explored. The main male character, a midget, and the main female character, a“normal”sized beauty, in Freaks and Spurs experienced external and internal monstrosity throughout the plot, respectively. The origin of monstrosity appeared to have been a negative connotation in many different societies. There are many schools of theory that would help one understand the concept of monstrosity. However, psychological criticism seemed to coincide with the theme of monstrosity.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, monstrosity is defined as “an animal or plant, or (occas.) an organ or part, that is abnormally developed or grossly malformed.” ("Monstrosity, N."). Abnormalities are considered a ghastly sight to the majority of individuals who happen to gaze upon a “monstrosity.” In Chapter 2: Variation Under Nature of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, Darwin describes monstrosity as a useless and unusual entity to a species (Darwin). While Darwin’s theory of monstrosity may sound offensive to some individuals, his theory is an accurate depiction of how many individuals perceive monstrosity. In ancient and modern societies, deformities tend to be associated with monstrosities. For example, Aristotle proposed a law to prevent parents raising their deformed children (Sullivan, “Deformity”). During the Nazi Germany era, people with deformities were killed because they were viewed as being a burden to society (Woolf, “The Disabled and Mentally Ill.”). Society’s perception of monstrosity usually focused on external features. The prologue to Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks provided world famous literary examples of how deformities are viewed as monstrosities in society.
Goliath and Frankenstein are arguably the most well-known monstrosities worldwide. Whether or not one has familiarity with scripture, the story of David and Goliath is one of the more renowned narratives from the Bible. From my perception, the only significance Goliath brings was he stood approximately nine feet tall and was defeated by a “normal sized” David. While his personality was not explored 1 Samuel 17, it is safe to assume Goliath was “wicked” because of his affiliation with the Philistines (1 Samuel 17:4). Goliath being a giant reaffirmed the concept of monstrosity. His abnormal stature is considered frightening; therefore, his personality was understood to be wicked. Likewise, Frankenstein’s abnormal...

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