Real Dragons: Monster Symbolism in Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, and Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls

Kevin Sun

Abstract


Didacticism plays a key role in fantasy horror literature for children, striving to teach some sort of lesson. These lessons are, at least in good fiction, not told by heavy-handed exposition, but instead shown through literary tools. In this paper, I will analyze Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, and Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls to show how monsters function as one of these tools.

The monsters in these three stories are malicious external threats, yet symbolize the internal struggles of selfishness, dependence, and guilt respectively, and in defeating these monsters through the support of adult influence, each protagonist gains insight that reflects the didactic lessons of the stories. These stories are horrific not because they feature monsters, but because they deal with issues that violate fundamental values in the symbolic childhood of Western culture. Monsters, terrifying yet vulnerable, make the horror bearable.

Full Text:

PDF


The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680