Why are monsters so powerful? Well, for one thing, they are a vehicle for vengeance. They want to do in whoever made them a monster; their victims want their revenge in turn, and before you know it, you have a cycle of violence and vendetta. Not many of us have met a Frankenstein or an Adam, but we’ve all experienced injustice and unfairness. It’s an extremely powerful, extremely relatable emotion. As they say, revenge is sweet.
The act of revenge is fueled by anger, and “hate gives us a similar high to cocaine”. OK, my source for that is a Cracked.Com article, but en comoedia, veritas. (I won’t provide a link because the article peeks through anti-Muslim doors that I don’t want to open, but you can google it if you like.) Anyway, I’ll link to National Geographic, which explains a brain-imaging study done in 2004 about how the brain rewards people who choose revenge.
However, as we all know, revenge isn’t simple. Another old saying goes: revenge is a dish best served cold. Revenge conducted in the heat of the moment is often something stupid with major consequences. Revenge takes a lot of time, commitment and emotional investment – emotional investment that might be better spent elsewhere. Another chestnut: If you want revenge, dig two graves. “Pursuit of revenge is likely to be destructive to the pursuer as well as to their object,” the Oxford Treasury of Sayings and Quotations says. And this Psychology Today post mentions a paper (by Kevin Carlsmith et al) that suggests that people who don’t take revenge actually feel better long term – better than people who choose the revenge.
The PT post goes on to say that Mario Gollowitz thought that revenge could be satisfying when the offender understands the connection between their act and the retribution. It’s not as good if seemingly-random bad stuff happens to a bad guy – the old “Karma is a Bitch” bumper sticker.
Although, reading down to the comments of the PT post, one woman mentions that she found it extremely satisfying to turn in a guy for falsifying his qualifications after the guy harassed her and another woman. She went through the proper channels about the harassment first, but her company only gave the guy a slap on the wrist. Her next actions were anonymous, and she obviously seems satisfied with the results. Perhaps this is something to do with the justice involved in vengeance . . . she’s not just getting back for herself, but protecting future co-workers. Or maybe taking action gave her the confidence to leave the company with such a toxic culture for women. At any rate, she’s satisfied.
In a different comment on the same post, someone talks about the consequences of taking non-institutional vengeance – he got revenge on a manager who “threw him under a bus” for a business miscalculation by exposing an affair the manager was having with his secretary. The commenter was outed, and although he wasn’t fired, he said “it was made clear that no manager would ever trust me to work for them.”
You see, vengeance is tricky. The offender (or their colleagues) may feel the punishment is too harsh, and so another vengeance cycle is set into motion. Where does it end? How does it end? There’s certainly enough emotion there to propel a whole novel or even a series.
And revenge is a tool both the heroes and villains can use, no matter who the “monsters” are. Something to think about when you are writing your monsters, human or otherwise.