The Monster by R. J. Cardullo | Script Revolution

The Monster

A black stable-hand saves his white employer’s young son from a house fire, but the black man’s burns disfigure his face so much that he becomes a pariah, like the employer himself—and his family.



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Based On: 
the 1898 novella of the same name by Stephen Crane

After being admonished by his father, Dr. Ned Trescott, for damaging a peony while playing in the yard, young Jimmie Trescott visits the family’s stable-hand, Henry Johnson, at his work. Henry, a handsome black and a kind of eminence in Whilomville, New York, is friendly toward Jimmie. Later that evening, Henry dresses smartly and saunters through town—inciting catcalls from friends and ridicule from the local white men—on his way to call on the young black Bella Farragut, who is extremely taken with him.
That same evening, a large crowd gathers in the park to hear a band play. Suddenly, a nearby factory whistle blows to alert the townspeople of a fire in the second district of town; men gather water wagons and head toward the blaze, which is quickly spreading throughout Dr. Ned Trescott’s house. Mrs. Trescott is saved by a neighbor yet cannot locate her son, Jimmie, who is trapped inside. Henry Johnson appears from the crowd and rushes into the house in search of the boy, finding him unharmed in his bedroom. Unable to retreat by the way he came, Henry carries Jimmie, wrapped in a blanket, to Dr. Trescott’s workroom-cum-laboratory and its little stairway that leads outside. But Henry discovers that the fire has blocked this way out, as well, and he collapses beside the doctor’s desk. A jar nearby shatters from the heat, spilling molten chemicals on Henry’s upturned face.
Dr. Ned Trescott returns home from a call to find his house ablaze; after he is told by his hysterical wife that Jimmie is still inside, he rushes into the building through the laboratory’s small passageway. He finds Jimmie Trescott still wrapped in the blanket and carries him outside. Hearing that Henry Johnson continues to be trapped in the house, Dr. Trescott attempts to re-enter but is held back by others. A fireman then goes into the blazing building and returns with the badly burned “thing” that used to be Henry. The injured men and boy are taken to Judge Denning Hagenthorpe’s home across the street to be treated, and, while it is thought that Dr. Trescott and Jimmie will survive their injuries, Henry is pronounced as good as dead.
Henry Johnson survives, however, under the watchful eye of Dr. Ned Trescott, who treats the injured man out of gratitude for saving his son’s life. Judge Denning Hagenthorpe, a leading figure in Whilomville, urges Dr. Trescott to let Henry die, arguing that he “will hereafter be a monster, a perfect monster, and probably with an affected brain. No man can observe you as I have done and not know that it was a matter of conscience with you, but I am afraid, my friend, that this is one of the blunders of virtue.” Ultimately, Dr. Trescott goes against Judge Hagenthorpe’s judgment and decides to move Henry, who has sustained disfiguring injuries not only to his face but also to his psyche, to a local black household. Unfortunately, Henry’s presence there proves troubling for this family’s well-being.
One night Henry Johnson absconds from his black foster home, visiting various people around town and leaving terrified neighbors in his wake, including Bella Farragut, whom he attempts to court as if no time has passed—and nothing has happened—since they last met. Not welcome anywhere else, Henry is eventually moved back to the carriage house in the newly rebuilt Trescott home. Still, despite Dr. Ned Trescott’s protection, Henry is branded a monster by the townspeople, who consequently avoid him as well as the Trescott family. Although previously Henry’s friend, Jimmie now mocks him, daring his friends to approach the disfigured man in the garden. Once the leading doctor in Whilomville, Dr. Trescott’s reputation suffers greatly, as does that of his wife, who no longer receives visitors. They both remain steadfast, nonetheless, in their support of Henry. Jimmie Trescott himself has a change of heart and, in the end, re-unites with Henry—in the same garden—beneath his parents’ loving gaze.

Submitted: August 27, 2020
Last Updated: August 27, 2020

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R. J. Cardullo's picture

The Writer: R. J. Cardullo

A former university film teacher, I turned to screenwriting several years ago. I have also written film criticism for many publications. A New Yorker by birth, I grew up in Miami and was educated at the University of Florida, Tulane, and Yale. My last U.S. address was in Milford, Connecticut; I am now an expatriate residing in Scandinavia. Many of my scripts (both long and short) are adaptations of lesser-known works by well-known authors. I am happy to re-write, collaborate, or write on demand. Thanks kindly for any attention you can give my work. Go to bio

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