Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As in other of his major short stories—notably, “Death and the Child,” “The Open Boat,” “The Blue Hotel,” and “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky”—Crane employs a narrative voice in “The Monster” that directs attention away from its point of view and toward the inner, or moral, life of the events that it narrates. Such a voice, merging with the act of narrating, effaces itself. In this way, self-effacement becomes not only a dramatic and thematic concern in “The Monster” but also a stylistic method that surpasses the conventional notion of point of view.

Point of view, in fact, cannot adequately account for the narrative feat that Crane performs in this and other stories because there is no single point or definable consciousness from which events emanate. The narrator has no “face” as a character or mind either within or outside the dramatic events of the story. What appears as omniscience—the narrator’s ability to see the outside as well as the inside of characters—is more accurately described as a relative or conditional perspective. The narrator does not, for example, comment with “all knowing” intelligence on what characters think, but instead shows how they “seem” to feel or what “might” have passed through their minds. In “The Monster,” this conditional attitude occurs grammatically when Jimmie tries for a second time to point out the broken peony to his father:After a period of silence, during which...

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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