In this season of tricks or treats, when imaginations are encouraged to run wild and we squeal in delight at all things spooky, my mind wandered to monsters. Literary monsters, to be specific.
The nefarious creatures that have been woven into our collective storytelling for centuries fascinate me. I like to think even cavemen created monsters in their stories. Giant fangs and ravenous appetites warning little cave girls and cave boys to stick close and listen to their cave mothers.
Why do I love monsters so much? It’s not because of their inhumanity. No, I love them for the exact opposite—all the tragic humanity these authors penned into their stories. These monsters are us, even if they’re us at our worst, and that makes understanding them all the more satisfying. So let’s dissect five famous literary monsters and ask, which one shares your personality type?
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
On the surface, Dracula may seem like a classic Introvert. He lurks in a castle, hides in the shadows, attacks only at night and remains largely unseen. I mean, he uses mist and morphs into animals, which are some serious incognito skills. But don’t let that creature of the night persona fool you. Peel back those layers of personality with some cloves of garlic, and you’ll see his ENTJ traits are undeniable.
Beneath all his lurking is a brilliant tactician personality at work. A commander incarnate, Dracula is a vampire with a plan and nothing, not time, not distance—certainly not pesky Jonathan Harker—is going to stand in his way. His iNtuitive traits work well with strategy, allowing his ideas and concepts to merge with flexible Judgement. There’s a plan and there’s alternate plans, because Dracula sees the war from all angles. Confident and charismatic, Dracula knows his machinations will be executed flawlessly and precisely by those he commands. Don’t mistake his charm for feeling though, Dracula values logic and reason (Thinking) over emotion.
The Count uses all his strengths but with such focus and drive, his intolerance for failure turns his attributes into flaws. For all his confidence, in spite of all his charm, Dracula does not value emotions and, therefore, does not have control over them. When things don’t go his way, he flies into fits of rage, destroying anything and anyone standing in his way. He uses people to achieve his ends, but then abandons them when they stop being useful. Harker left for dead in the castle and Renfield abandoned in a mental asylum; Dracula only cares about his goals. In Dracula’s world, you’re either with him, or against him, and everything else is Judged a tool or irrelevant.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
It’s arguable that the monster in Shelley’s novel isn’t the creature but is actually the creator. However, the creature is referred to as a monster, and is seen as monstrous by both the characters and his subsequent actions throughout the novel. So, I’m going to lump him into our monster ensemble.
Frankenstein’s creature felt pretty easy to identify as an INFP. Even though his introverted nature seemingly comes from the reactions his appearance provokes, the creature demonstrates that he enjoys solitude and wants quiet companionship. He iNtuitively seeks to understand the world, teaching himself to read and to speak, in multiple languages no less. Through his education he strives to find meaning in not just life, but in what it means to be human. He finds spirituality, and determines that Feeling love is what makes life tolerable. This then becomes his sole purpose.
But alas, the creature is incredibly sensitive to Feelings and that’s both a strength and a weakness. He Feels deeply; the abandonment from his own creator, society continually shunning him, it all makes for extremely vulnerability. He is melancholy, morose, miserable. It’s only the promise of Dr. Frankenstein making him a companion that gives the creature a sense of justice, something to hold onto. Time and time again the doctor fails the creature, each time adding to the Feeling of being violated and Perceived being wronged on fundamental levels. These violations are the ends that justify the means, allowing the creature to kill for vengeance even while murder would seem to go against his gentler INFP nature.
The Picture Of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
Dorian Grey is an especially interesting character. He isn’t exactly a monster in the true sense of the word, but he is monstrous. And since the painting he’s tied to gives him the ability to dive head first into his darkest impulses, he makes for an intriguing glimpse into what makes a monster.
The performer incarnate, Dorian Grey is an ESFP to a tee. Attractive and full of wit, Dorian covets being the center of attention. He’s bold, audacious even, in going after what he wants, and always adds a bit of flourish to everything he does. Dorian Grey is the extraverted life of the party, devoted to living life where he pursues nothing but pleasure. His Sensory traits want everything to be beautiful, artistic and fun.
While Dorian may wear a devil-may-care nonchalance on his exterior, he Feels more than he thinks. When faced with his love choice being mocked by his friends, he dismissed her rather than defended her. This led to her subsequent suicide, which sparked nearly uncontrollable feeling of guilt and regret. Those Feelings are the very opposite of fun, so Dorian shoves them aside, trying to turn them into a Perceived symbol of artistic triumph, rather than mourn the potential love he lost. This tendency to avoid conflict is not only represented in his extraverted-feeling dominant personality, but Wilde shows it, literally, when Dorian covers the painting completely, hiding it away when it begins to show him the consequences of his actions.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
While Dr. Frankenstein conjured a monster from corpses, Dr. Jekyll had a far more terrifying reality to contend with. We all look at ourselves in a mirror, wondering what drives our bad decisions, our less ideal impulses. It’s no wonder the thought that an actual monster could reside deep within ourselves has haunted us for well over a hundred years.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are two sides of the same craftsman, otherwise known as, an ISTP. On the positive side, Dr. Jekyll is a brilliant, introverted scientist, focused on his laboratory and his scientific endeavors. Even his downfall, the creation of the potion that brings Mr. Hyde to life highlights his strengths. His Thinking is demonstrated time and time again through his problem solving skills. Which, when combined with the flexibility through Perceiving and practicality that Sensing allows, he continues to try to find solutions.
But it’s when we meet Mr. Hyde, we see the extreme Sensory and Perceptive traits showcased. He’s a thrill-seeking, impatient creature only concerned with fulfilling whatever urges and compulsions strike. He embodies everything the upstanding doctor fears. I find it fascinating that it’s Jekyll’s own impulses that allow Hyde to take over in the end. The emergence of Hyde drives Jekyll to become more Introverted, to the point of becoming a recluse. Which then compounds his impatience, leading Jekyll to use subpar chemicals, effectively killing them both though it is in Hyde’s body that they die. By attempting to isolate what Jekyll deemed his evil self, he led to his own demise.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Like Frankenstein’s creature, Quasimodo is a monster of creation, though society at large and societal institutions bears responsibility rather than a mad scientist. Regardless, Quasimodo still behaves in monstrous ways, making his ISFJ traits a little harder to find.
It may seem strange to call a monster a protector, but truly, that is what Quasimodo is. He’s incredibly, painfully shy, his introverted nature meaning he prefers his work over people. He’s hard-working and humble, carving statues from stone and spending his life dedicated to quality craftsmanship. His Sensing traits make him detail oriented, while his Judging takes those details and renders them into breathtaking beauty. And once he finds something, or someone, to fight and Feel for; he goes to the end of his world to help her.
The tragedy of Quasimodo and perhaps the thing that made him a monster is less his personality, but that he became a victim of it. His isolation and his devotion to his work allowed him to put blinders on, giving loyalty and protection to someone who perhaps didn’t deserve it. By the time Esmerelda showed him kindness and allowed his gentle ISFJ nature to come through, he had already been under Frollo’s influence for too long. He stayed too introverted, too rigid and Judgmental, too mired in Sensory details to open his heart and Feel the beauty of the world.
Stories have always served a purpose. To help us understand the world, and as we evolved, they evolved too. Now we can look at stories to help us understand ourselves. Monsters give us a mirror. Another tool that allows us to see how the things we fear most have less to do with monsters, and everything to do with our innermost selves.