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The Monster

Page history last edited by David Hodges 11 years, 11 months ago

The Monster

by Deems Taylor

p. 693



(That's just before Midnight)


Richard Wagner was undoubtedly a musical genius, but that didn't make him pleasant to live with or befriend. Among other things, Deems Taylor tells us in "The Monster," Wagner was an unbearable "know-it-all." That's hard enough to accept in mediocre people to whom we can at least feel superior in some way, but it's intolerable in someone who, as Taylor describes it "was right all the time ... He was one of the world's great dramatists; he was a great thinker; he was on of the most stupendous musical geniuses ... the world has ever seen"


This essay explores so many wonderful themes, I think I'll just let you roam through it for awhile and pick up ideas at you r own pace. But I would certainly like to hear from you about several of my favorite ideas from these pages.


  • Is genius incompatible with decency? It certainly seems from the stories of the lives of great artists that they have difficulty maintaining good relationships with anyone.
  • Are big thinkers simply incapable of understanding the needs of smaller minds?
  • Do they feel their intellectural superiority entitles them to satisfy their whims and run up big debts they have no intention of paying?
  • Is there no room in one brain forgrand creations and at the same time emotional maturity?
  • And what about the trade-off? Would we want to sacrifice great art, literature, and music just to have a few more pleasant people around?


          Have fun, 5! I can't to hear what you have to say.

Comments (39)

Maria Aznar said

at 11:55 am on Feb 26, 2010

Hello everybody! this is another great essay thanks prof, Hodges.

I have two points of view about this lecture, one is about his egoism, and the other is about his loneliness. When I finish to read the essay, I realized that this is an example of thousandth of people who have the same behavior than had Deems Taylor. I don't like to defend people who are selfish and have one kind of evil over other people, but I strongly believe that these kind of people could have a serious problem with the loneliness and lack of attention even they are greater thinkers and amazing artists. Of course there are many smart and genius people who are decents and live their life in a humble way, but probably there are others who are empty in one aspect of their live and need to full this hole through art. In my oppinion, this is an example of what happened to Deems Taylor and that's why he needed to be surrounded of people regardless they were friends or not. The big thinkers also are "smaller" minds because of their superiority to other people. Deems Taylor was like a child in a man's costume with a lot of money and ideas that were misunderstood by people. I'm agree about he was selfish, ambitious, and proud of himself, but I think the mistake was he chose the wrong way to express his art. He took his bad weapons like his evil cunning to get his purposes, and after that his other bad adjectives flourish. Anyway Maria thinks that people who died and left gifts called art in all over the world, they should not be quite selfish at all :)

David Hodges said

at 12:29 pm on Feb 26, 2010

Those are wonderful and generous comments, Maria. I'm sure you meant to make them all about Richard Wagner. (Deems Taylor is the author of the essay about Wagner.)

Thank you for getting us started!

Maria Aznar said

at 12:48 pm on Feb 26, 2010

Aha, I'm always on the clouds...

trangnguyen said

at 3:12 pm on Feb 26, 2010

Hi , After reading through " The Monster", i wander about the character's acts that Deens Taylor express thought the story. Firstly, i am going to talk cursory image about himself. He is a genius,a perfect composer about music, a good conversationalist, and so on. He is very satisfactory himself within any monologue,and keep a sole topic: what he thought and what he did. He invited every one to come over his house to hear his new operas, and more than it . The other way to talk that he is so self-fish, especially a monster. Every one is very probably admirable him; however, he had delusion of his life. Indeed, people proved that he is a intelligent man, but the way he treated every one with his achievement is unfair. Secondly, maybe he is so proud of himself as a big thinker, he don't mind the feelings of everyone. That sounds seriously because the relationship is important in social life. people will be in trouble if they are lacking of friends, even the eminent person. One part from the lecture : " when his friends come over to hear his operas .... they can not criticism , just applause..." It was so ridiculous for his acts. To my opinion, his successful will be increase as if he knows how to receive from every one 's idea as the way he want to share his conversation to every one. Share and Receive should be even in his life.

Tabinda Kashif. said

at 4:36 pm on Feb 26, 2010

This essay is very good example of an egocentric, border line personality and grandiose behavior. This person is so consumed with himself that everything around him is meaningless to him e.g. people, family, friends and materialistic things (which could be the reasons why he owes so much money to other people and when he did have money he spent it like “ Indian Raja”).
At the same time, he was in contrast struggle to prove to himself, family and friends which indicates to me that may be he was perfectionist never satisfied about his work and always in struggle to make him better and trying to prove other people that he was better than them.
His goal directed behavior made him selfish and insensitive to other people around him. Because of his personality, he was also paranoid, didn’t trust anyone, this was a reason why he always had to be right. This behavior also affected his personal life and his wife of 20 years left him; in addition, he was also unfaithful to his second wife.
Finally, even though he was very insensitive and rude to other people; however, for himself he was very sensitive e.g. he would break up his friendships if a friend would refuse dinner invitations.

Tabinda Kashif. said

at 4:43 pm on Feb 26, 2010

I think big thinkers have difficulty with communication with average minded people, since big

thinkers are preoccupied/focused on something bigger than themselves. Also, big thinkers

don’t like to get caught up with day to day routine, chores because these things are major

distraction. Average mind people have difficulty communicating with big thinkers because their

priorities are different. They have responsibilities for self and others e.g. paying rent, cooking,

cleaning etc…

David Hodges said

at 4:58 pm on Feb 26, 2010

This is really impressive, Tabinda, Trang, and Maria. I'm delighted all of you have taken the time to read and comment so ably and early! You've made a beautiful inventory of all Wagner's behaviors and suggested several explanations for it. Why do you suppose people put up with it, continued to lend him money, marry him, accept his invitations?

Tabinda Kashif. said

at 7:54 pm on Feb 26, 2010

I think that may be they were counting on his success and their association with him that one day he might be there for them as they

have been for him. Also, may be they hoped that he might change in the future and would be more helpful and more sensitive.

May be his first wife loved him so much and hoped that she might be able to influence him in changing his behavior with her and with

other people.

As far as money is concerned, since he was so aggressive, rude and manipulative may be he left no choice to his good friends and they

kept trusting him and hoping that he might return their money.

Maria Aznar said

at 10:57 am on Feb 27, 2010

I don't know, but it is something clear that for some reason these people who lend him money wanted that Wagner continued with his proyects. Why? may these people were waiting to benefit from him in the future, or may they did it just for pleasure, who knows? I think that it has to be really uncomfortable to accept his invitations and share a life with someone who is really a monster, so people who were around Wagner along his days, they must have felt a type of empathy toward him.

David Hodges said

at 11:52 am on Feb 27, 2010

You use a word that has many valuable vocabulary associations, Maria, some of them very complicated. We can have empathy or sympathy, or antipathy; be empathetic, sympathetic, or antipathetic; sometimes you may even hear the word "empath" as a noun to describe a person particularly good at putting herself in the position of another. Would somebody like to describe the difference between sympathy and empathy? I'd like to know myself. :)

David Hodges said

at 11:52 am on Feb 27, 2010

I don't mean I'd like to know myself (I know myself just fine); I mean I, myself, would like to know! :-)

rokya alao-fary said

at 11:58 am on Feb 27, 2010

hi, to be honnest, i did not like this text. it was really boring for me but i agreed in part with Maria and Tabinda. I do not think that his selfishness came from the fact that he was lonely. You can be lonely and still be a good person.
He did had friends, but he did not know how to keep them. His life was way beyond extraordinary for him and thought that he was better than everyone else.Sure it is always good to prove to people that you can do things better than them or prove to every one that you got talent but you have to do it in a respectfull way without offensing the one who love you and trust you. I think that people continued to lend him money because they were different from him and put friendship, honnesty and love before everything else what he should have done too or may be, instead of all the bad things he does to people, he had an other good side that people saw in him and made them loved him. I think also that women married him may be for his success i could not think about anything else.

Maria Aznar said

at 12:09 pm on Feb 27, 2010

:) ok the word sympathy in my opinion is when someone wants to share good and bad feelings with another person, and empathy is when someone (like you said) "a person particularly good at putting herself in the position of another". Did I answer your question?

rokya alao-fary said

at 12:32 pm on Feb 27, 2010

Plz David can i change my cmpare and contrast topic??? i know that i won't be able to rewrite it...

David Hodges said

at 1:52 pm on Feb 27, 2010

Rokya, let's take this conversation over to the Compare or Contrast page.

Tabinda Kashif. said

at 4:54 pm on Feb 27, 2010

I think empathy is to feel someone's pain or understand someone's pain/difficulty since you yourself have gone through the same situation.
Sympathy would be to recognize someone's pain; however, you cannot identify with them since you yourself have not gone through the same situation.

ND Nguyen said

at 5:04 pm on Feb 27, 2010

I totally agree with you, Maria. We, normal people, worry about what other think about us and we are afraid of make other being vexed. Genius whose world is filled by various feelings and emotions does not act or think like ordinary people. What if a little trivial body is pregnant with a too great brilliant mind ? Genius, especially Richard Wegner, thought and felt surroundings more deeply and differently than us. His characteristic was enough complex to keep him being busy in his own feeling, his own roles, his own world in which he was unique right. Therefore, he did not need anyone to judge his works, but he needed his friends and his family to praise and admire them. Because he was so talent, he was arbitrary. He sunk into his separated world with marvelous created works, and when he came out, he could not be the one among his friends, his family or his surroundings. That's why he did not have much friends, actually just one !

fatimazahra said

at 4:41 pm on Feb 28, 2010

Hello 5 .always we have new essays. I like this essay because it’s very good example of human’s behavior and content personalities. After I read the story I discover how hard to understand this person. Also the way he was dealing with others. I know he is great musicians and composer, but it’s not reason to treat people by arrogant and brutal them. It’s selfish treatment form him because he is very demanding, he invite his friends to his house to read what he write, but not for criticism but for applause, and the same thing every time .he is thinking just for him self, and he look at him by his eyes not by others .I think it’s an inefficient way to reach other; in contrast, he should think for other first, because without them he is nothing. And the thing surprise me that every body supports him as first wife she stayed with him for twenty years persisting and absolving his agnostic. And second wife he stole her. Really he was definitely selfish man .and other thing get me upset that he borrowed money from others and he never paying or repaying money to anyone, that’s mean he exploited friends ,family …for his personal interests .furthermore if someone refuse his invitation ,or argue with him he treat him without any respect and broke up friendship . I think maybe theirs some reasons let him act as selfish man. Perhaps the conditions and the environment he grew up in. it doesn’t matter what he was famous ,genius …that didn’t give him permission to behave like that he could be more smart .he has to exploited the presence of the other in his live and thinking about other filling. I think this man is not smart enough, because first he has to be genius by appreciating others .There is wisdom says” thought for others before yourself”. Moreover the result for these behaviors it’s loneliness, he died and he had exactly one friend. Just this it’s enough to give lesson for others who they are as Monster.

kamrunaleya said

at 7:18 pm on Feb 28, 2010

Hi 5.I do agree with you Fatima.This essay taught us some special side of human psychology and behavior. At first, when I was reading the story i was thinking like how could be a man become so selfish like Richard Wagner. Sometimes famous or genius people became blind due to their popularity. They don't even think about the effect of their behavior to others. Well famous people or genius people are big thinker but they have to keep it in their mind that they became famous due to those people who appreciate their works. So, they should need to respect those people who are their admirer. Sometimes famous or genius people become role model to others. A famous or genius person like Richard Wagner should keep it in their mind the way of their life style could effect others. The thing which make me so surprise is Richard Wagner's lending money from others and never repaying them.How could be a famous or genius people do something like that. Well i guess this is might be a new style of increasing fame.hahahhaha.

salena said

at 12:37 am on Mar 1, 2010

Hi every body! I like this new essay.I do not know; some how, I like Richard's character.Every famous people is different in

many aspects. Richard Wagner was undoubtedly very genius. But the eerie behavior of Richard Wagner made him different

from the other famous people. He used to borrow money from other people, try to prove himself right. But his work on music is

uncommon and superb. Writer said at the end of his essay that whatever he said was right although he said that he had a

emotional stability of a six year old. I think it happens with a very genius people such as Richard Wagner.That’t why he could do

a great genius things in his seventy years old, but he did not try to change his behavior or himself.Even he strongly believed

that he was right.

Elisabeth BIO said

at 1:17 am on Mar 1, 2010

hi 5. What a disgusting personality we have in Richard Wagner! he had no dignity, no decency, and worst he did not have people skills at all. Nevertheless he was a genius but I think that genius live beyond the ordinary. So it is not surprising that Wagner could not have the same vision of things like normal humain. whatever we ( normal humain) call decency, genius will not see it that way because they live in their own world; world of prefection, where it is very hard for them to try to understand normal people minds. they think that others needs are not important. thats is why they live a selfish and non humain life.

David Hodges said

at 3:53 am on Mar 1, 2010

Wow. What a class! Among the many comments to admire in what's already been said, I want to say there are some beautiful phrases in addition to all the good thinking. Some are particularly fluent; others are amazing or inspiring for other reasons; all are remarkable. This is a sample of my favorites:

• even though he was very insensitive and rude to other people
• in contrast struggle to prove to himself, family and friends
• since he was so aggressive, rude and manipulative
• big thinkers are preoccupied/focused on something bigger than themselves
• they must have felt a type of empathy toward him
• You can be lonely and still be a good person
• big thinkers have difficulty with communication
• [they] put friendship, honesty and love before everything else
• evil over other people
• proud of himself as a big thinker
• waiting to benefit from him in the future
• like a child in a man's costume
• empty in one aspect of their lives
• I don't like to defend people who are selfish
• not for criticism but for applause
• Perhaps the conditions and the environment he grew up in
• that didn’t give him permission to behave like that
• [he] exploited the presence of the other in his life
• [a] special side of human behavior and psychology
• his work in music is uncommon and superb
• an egocentric, border line personality and grandiose behavior
• when he did have money he spent it like “ Indian Raja”
• since you yourself have not gone through the same situation
• a little trivial body is pregnant with a too great brilliant mind
• no dignity, no decency, and worst, he did not have people skills
• Whatever we call decency, genius will not see it that way
• Because he was so talented, he was arbitrary
• they became famous due to those people who appreciate their works
• What a disgusting personality we have in Richard Wagner!

Thank you for all the good work, 5. Keep it up!

julian molokwu said

at 10:28 pm on Mar 1, 2010

Richard Wagner is a genius but he is also a self sentered person, as the writer said He believed in himself to be the greatest composers and the greatest dramatists in the world. he think he is the greatest human being on earth,feeling on top of the world. He also borow money from people without paying them back , i think he was jeopadizing these people for his own selfish interest. the writer called him a genius, actually for me there is no genuity in him because he is abnormal, he is not thinking like a human being, he had no friend, his wife left him because of his unfaithfulness to her, he was a monster indeed.

Sr.Irena Jusko said

at 9:05 am on Mar 2, 2010

I wonderabout the fact that a genius can not be an upright man. Why greatness and decency can't go together? I don't see any obstacles for it, execept if the great mind of an artist and thinker, like Wagner, elevates itself over others. If he is haughty because of his superiority and he scorns the less talented people, a real relationship with others is impossible. I also wonder how a great thinker might not see that the fundamental issue of human life is "being human". Maybe Wagner was aware of it but slighted it by thinking that human relationship is not important. Most likely, he devoted himself totally to music. Is it ethical and moral to devote oneself to a passion without any reserve? Taylor said that Wagner was faithful to Music. However, the prime task for man is to be faithful to his own humanity. Otherwise he is like a beautifully decorated building without a foundation. If Wagner was concerned about being human as much as being a composer then mankind would have been doubly enriched: both with a great human being and a great composer.

Neel Patel said

at 12:38 pm on Mar 2, 2010

He prof Hodges,
In 8th paragraph, the author describes the way how Richard lived his life. What didn’t he have? He was living a life of rajah. For those who know what rajah means in India is, he’s the one who rules the field and the country decades ago. Every call is his call. He had enough money for his next ten generations to live...it’s very strange how Richard has everything. Money and knowledge; the main thing a man runs after during his life. But the missing part in his life is the social life. He has perfect knowledge about music to share but he doesn’t have feelings which he can share. When person doesn’t interact with another, he becomes ill even though he’s fine physically. Richard can write the best book ever about music that can make everyone else feel great but what is the point of making others happy when he himself isn’t happy? People can be around you like how they are around Richard, but if you tend to ignore them in a mean way, it will reflect your personality and a shadow of you being the only in your one little world, like Richard.

Neel Patel said

at 12:38 pm on Mar 2, 2010

After reading this essay I personally learned a lesson which was funny at the first thought but significant. People nowadays run after money, but they forget if they will spend it all or take it with them when they die. Sometimes being selfish is not bad but it’s not good either….

Neel Patel said

at 12:38 pm on Mar 2, 2010

Referring to Maria’s comment from 12:09 PM feb 27,
Like I said, being selfish is not good or bad but when the person is alone, you should know the reason why he’s alone. Something has to be wrong with him… In this case, Richard was being selfish….

Mohamed Tidiane Fofana said

at 12:40 pm on Mar 2, 2010

Hello everyone,
In the beginning, when I read this essay, I was thiking about the feeling of the author about Wagner. The way he described him was very exagerated that I thought I hated him so much. But, at the end, I saw that the author describe him as even if he was very selfish, the whole world owed him something. I think the way the monster behaved in term of relationship with other was bad, but I don't see any bad in his self-confidence. Without self-confidence, there will not be anybody to guide others. We need to know that nobody is perfect, everybody have some defaults. In order to achieve our goal, we don't have to look at anybody's face when we think what we are doing is a good thing. It is also good to be realistic in our thought and action.

Neel Patel said

at 12:41 pm on Mar 2, 2010

sorry i my comment was reffering to: rokya alao-fary said at 11:58 am on Feb 27, 2010
sorry about that

Florence oledimma said

at 2:31 pm on Mar 2, 2010

The story of wagner is like a story of someone with a behavioral problem. In the essay the writer made mention that Wagner had delusions of grandeur,this is a mental health problem which has to do with people who their mind set is always preocupied with superiority.This is what is called superiority complex.what is happening in their brain is different from what is happening in a normal brain. People with this problem their inner man is always telling them that they are greater than anyother existing human being around. As a behavior assisitant, i have explored into different kinds of behavior portrayed by individuals which can be through biological factors, environmental factors and learned behavior. if am given this behavior to analyse i will conclude that he need medication to correct his mind set.i have worked with a lot of people in this country even those that are worst than these. PROF, according to your question, genius are incompatible with decency because of what they have in mind about themselves, which could be created by their family background,their friends or even the entier country. Perhaps when they were young they were given all the attention in th world which entered into their head or the undue respect given to them because they are genius. One from my country, a musician too lived this kind of life, changing woman like cloth and he ended up with aids. An admirable genius, he ended up like that and all that people remembered about him today is his egoism, insensitivity towards his wife and his selfishness.

nidhi said

at 4:55 pm on Mar 2, 2010

hi professor
this is essay is about a selfish person... essay describe how intelligent he was. he has all knowledge for music . But with music there should be all ways some kind of emotional feeling. he had all money and knowledge. he had everything what man looks for his entire life. he was living as a rajah. Rajah is the one who own the empire. he his voice is final for everyone. he had all money, but had no social life. if you don't have any social life then there is no space for you in society even if you have lot of money. he had a great ability to make other happy by writing them books and the music which he plays, but there in nothing in his life to enjoy. he all alone by him self. if some one comes you and you just keep ignoring them that person want come to talk to you next time. repeating this stuff over and over you will be all alone in your life. like Ricahrd.

nidhi said

at 4:58 pm on Mar 2, 2010

i learned two things from this essay: the first thing is being selfish is not too bad in todays world. and other thing is we just enjoy our life because we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow in our life so we should live every movement happy in our lives/

Mary Ebogu said

at 7:39 pm on Mar 2, 2010

Hi guys, this story is really interesting. Speaking of the monster, i think he was very pushy, he never gave people their "breathing space." He was the air anywhere people went to. His lifestyle to me, was really annoying. How can a man spend the whole day talking about things that people doesn't even want to hear. A normal human being, that is really thoughtful will know from the start know that people weren't interested in his stories or his wirte ups, because he kept on doing the same thing everyday. What if someone had a miserable day, and the person comes to him for advise? To me, i think the person's day will be more miserable. For the person will not get what he wants, because he came to a selfish and a self centered person who derives joy in praising himself. Really, Richard hard the qualities of a monster. He was very good at making enemies, he was selfish, he was a person that uses very means to beg for money, and if he was turned down he will hate the person, etc.... All this features that Richard had can be seen in most of all the movies about monsters, but according to the dictionary meaning of monster, the only "monster" that can not be seen in movies is that Richard was really succesful. Even though he had a weird kind of life, his writings and music still shooked the world. Who can queston his act, though he was an incredible debtor, he was a good musical composer. Seeing his transcribed music on youtube gave me the impression that he was a man that shooked the world in his own time.

Mary Ebogu said

at 7:44 pm on Mar 2, 2010

Both positively and negatively.

rajbir13 said

at 7:58 pm on Mar 2, 2010

Hello Prof. Hodges
this essay is about a selfish person who is very intelligent. Richard didnt know how to behave with his friends or family. Richard being a famous person in the field of music,i can say he was a looser in his life.Earning money in your life is important but earning friendship,a good family and faith is also important which Richard failed to earn in his life. He ended up being alone. I did not like Richard because of his way of treating others. He borrowed money from all his friends but never think of repaying it back.The guy was a big thinker but i guess he did not have space for emotions and feelings in his mind.

Trupti patel said

at 10:14 pm on Mar 2, 2010

Hello proffser Hodges

this is really intresting eassay. i found this very intresting and i learned lesson from it too. Richard he was egostic, and selfish person, but other side there was one positive point of

him he was very smart and intelligent. However i think he had narrow mind, he was just thinking about his life, he want not intrested at all to know about social life, or what's going

on around world. yes, he was famous for his music, and as a writer. i really like his intellegence and his passion about them. But i think he didnt understnad defination of life, its not

just about money, or about just yourself. He was not giving importnce to his friend and family or thier emotion to him, for him his work was more importnat. Because of his this

quealities he didnt make his self happy or he couldnt make his life enjoyable. the reason why he was campred to monster because i think as Mary said he was good at making

enemies, or he was selfish. At the end he was alone. Ended up his life being alone.

Trupti patel said

at 10:16 pm on Mar 2, 2010

i learned same lesson as neel did. people run after money, but they dont understand money is something, money is not everything.

and one more thing i learned is being selfish or alone cant help to live your life enjoyable.

venkatesh said

at 10:52 pm on Mar 2, 2010

hi writing V,

from this essay - one can get to know "the ways not to live your life"

the essay centers around one person- who always thinks and cares about himself and never had a heart & mind to think about others !!

The most important fact that proves his inhumanity is that he looks for benefits either as financial or personal even from his life partners.

One can learn the ways not to behave to others from this Essay. The author portrays nicely the Characters of Robert and points out the effects clearly which helps the readers to understand the cause and effects of such a Behavior.

Essay portrays both sides of Richard - sucess in his public life as a musician and failure in his life as a good human.

David Hodges said

at 5:08 am on Mar 3, 2010

Beautiful work, 5! There wasn't much to argue about in this essay, but you all did wonderful work thrashing out the details of Wagner's character.

(By the way, the first time we refer to a person in an essay, we use his full name, Richard Wagner. After that, we refer to him by his last name, Wagner; not his first name, Richard. We don't know him well enough to use his first name.)

Most of you earned your 5s without any difficulty. (Serdar and Elvia, we don't expect to hear from you.) But I was surprised and disappointed not to hear from Tan Hoang! What happened, Tan? Please don't neglect us next week.

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