The word “monster” and “demonstrate” come from the same root word: both mean “a warning.” I find that curious. A monster is a warning. But of what?
When I found out about the connection between those two words, the first word that occurred to me was “Frankenstein.” Frankenstein (he had no name in the novel or any of the movies) was a monster, but was a sympathetic monster (and here I go again: the “path” in sympathy is related to the word “pathos” and means “to suffer with”).
Frankenstein didn’t want much more than a friend; he wanted to be part of a community, even if it was just him and the blind hermit. He was rejected and humiliated by everyone except the blind man, who couldn’t see him. Everyone else was horrified by him and wanted to kill him.
What then, is demonstrated by Frankenstein? Brutally humiliate someone, especially in public, and what can happen (and often does happen, if history is any guide), is revenge. Whatever love Frankenstein had was turned to hate and the desire to revenge.
Frankenstein belongs to the class of monsters known as the Undead, along with zombies and vampires. Where did the idea of these undead monsters originate?
I don’t know, but I suspect they somehow based on real people, people who described themselves as the living dead, or zombies, or vampires.
The psychiatrist James Gilligan, who interviewed violent prisoners for almost 40 years, noticed a curious thing: those who committed the worse crimes, say, brutally murdering and mutilating their victims, invariably described themselves as “dead” before they committed their crimes.
They didn’t mean biologically dead; they meant dead inside. They often described themselves as zombies, vampires, robots, monsters. They said their “selves” had died long before they began killing people. They were in fact the Undead long before they began making others dead.
There is a lot to be learned by looking at what words really mean. The word “mortify” means “to make dead by humiliation.” In other words, if you want to make a monster, brutally humiliate someone, especially in public.
The ancient Greeks consider brutally humiliating someone in public to be obscene, and they banned it from their theater. In fact, the original meaning of the word “hubris” meant to humiliate or abuse someone in public.
Hubris was followed by Nemesis, which is revenge. Brutally humiliate someone in public, and you are then fated to suffer revenge. If you want to see a demonstration of how to create a monster, brutally and cruelly humiliate people, and if it goes on long enough, they die inside (this mortification transforms them into zombies and vampires) and then they seek to wreak destruction on people. Isn’t destruction what all monsters seek?
The sad and puzzling thing about the townspeople is they never realized their treatment of Frankenstein – rejecting, humiliating and trying to destroy him – is what caused him to seek revenge. If they had accepted him there would have been no problem.
Whenever monsters – of course they are always people -- start roaming the earth, maiming, murdering and destroying, it is a demonstration that something has gone wrong with other people so that they mortify the innocent, transforming them into the Undead who seek revenge on the living.