From Grendel to Zombie: Monsters as Descendants of Cain

Grendel. The Green Knight. Count Dracula. The nameless homogenized members of zombie hordes. These are all members of a family tree capable of tracing their origin back to an unusually precise abstract element of human nature. These are monsters whose very existence challenge preconceived notion of what it means to be human by suggesting that what it means to be monstrous is to be nothing more or less than abomination of the one inviolate code capable of ensuring the propagation of the species.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Temptation of Maturity in Fairy Tales

The color of that riding hood should not be taken as mere coincidence, of course, since red is perhaps the most striking color of the spectrum and has long a favorite for use as a symbol of sexuality. The plot device that has Red Riding Hood taking off on her journey to grandmother’s house should be viewed in terms of a metaphoric journey toward maturity. The woods in fairy tales are not only dark and mysterious, but more importantly they are overflowing with temptation. The words are the crucible in which Little Red Riding Hood will face a test of her maturity through the temptation that is the greatest obstacle to the process of maturation.

Novels About Hollywood

Indeed, “Boy Wonder” is more of a novel about Hollywood than the others on this list. Presented in the format of an oral history, the reader traces the life of young cinephile that rises up the ladder from nobody to B-movie legend to the stage of the Academy Awards.

The Greatest American Short Story Ever Written is by an Author You Never Learned About

A single reading cannot possibly convey the astonishing depth of what is going on within this deceptively simple story; only multiple readings can peel back the multiple layers of its complex construction and ambiguous structure. None of that complexity makes sense without the knowledge that Charles Chesnutt was the first African-American (of mixed race heritage it must be mentioned, but who absolutely presented himself to his readers at the turn of the 20th century as “negro”) to make a living writing fiction.

Was There a Real Mother Hubbard?

Sarah Catherine Martin had quite the interesting life; it is said that she was once the lover of the man who would become England’s King William IV. It was while visiting the home of her future in-laws that her future brother-in-law with the name, I kid you not, John Bastard, became so incensed by Sarah’s incessant chattering while he was trying to compose a letter that he told her to “run away and write one of your stupid little rhymes.”

Speaking of Grendel…but I Digress

Throughout these digressive episodes, the sea and lakes are transformed from mere bodies of water into inscrutable symbols of a foreboding netherworld populated by mysterious monstrosities and grimly fiendish ogres capable of ascending to the surface to the enact deadly violence upon humans seeking ultimate abomination of civilizing the world above.

Red Harvest: Hammett v. the Brits

What is most ironic and amusing about this absolutely horrific description is that its understatement serves to replicate the entirety of the British detective story tradition in which people—usually gathering at a manor house—start dropping like flies as a result of the murderous iniquities that are absolutely no different from the psychological motivations driving characters like Pete the Finn or Reno Starkey.

What Makes Elphaba Wicked?

The final section in which Elphaba travels to self-exile in Kiamo Ko shows how the image of the wicked witch is constructed. Elphaba attempts to learn the secrets of dark magic from the Grimmerie, a book of secrets that is the object of the Wizard’s journey to Oz, and this section provides explanations for much of the iconic images of the Wicked Witch of the West that most readers expect: the pointy hat, the flying monkeys, the broomstick. By this point, Elphaba has lost her lover, her family, and even her passion. She descends into a kind of madness, but never achieves the wickedness associated with her.