Topical Tuesday: Symbolism in A Monster Calls

Hello! And welcome to my second new feature that
I am introducing to my blog this year!
Topical Tuesday!
In this feature a topic will be discussed analysing a chosen
book of that week. It could be a classic, a new release or just a polled favourite 🙂

These are book discussions, so please comment your views and opinions and let us open up a book discussion!

The book and topic in question today is Symbolism in A Monster Calls so let’s get straight to it!


Now I am going to mention one of the most obvious first as I feel a lot leads from this. Firstly, grief can be seen in stages through the book literally through Conor –

Denial – the way Conor got up in the morning, did everything as if it were a normal day and said to everyone how this treatment would be okay. He was trying not to see how ill she was and this was also reflected in how the stories would not be any use to him.
Anger – Conor smashing up his Grandma’s house, his attitude to the monster and his stories saying they had bad endings.
Bargaining-  This part broke my heart the most and this is when Conor learns that the medicine used for his mum in the final treatment has yew tree properties. He runs to the monster, bargaining with him to make her better, pleading almost.
Depression- When it finally dawns on Conor that there really is nothing more to help his mum, he runs all the way home to the tree, where he finally tells it his ‘truth’. Afterwards he is exhausted and sleeps under the tree – this is his depressive stage.
Acceptance- At 12.05/7 when he goes in to see his mum for the last time, and finally says ‘I don’t want you to go, I don’t want you to die’ that is when he truly accepts it.

Leading on from the grief cycle the healing powers of the yew tree is assumed most of the way through the book to be for Conor’s mum when really it is all for Conor to come to terms with his mum’s illness. In Conor taking shelter under the tree near the end it is here where he finally lets all of his fight go.

Clocks and the breaking of the Grandfather clock- 12.07 is the time the monster comes which is symbolising the time of death of Mum. However it is also the time when the monster comes to be with Conor and be with him to heal him completely. It is helping him believe in life in the presence of death.

The destruction of the Grandfather clock is more than just Conor’s anger. It’s his frustration at his lack of control of time and how he cannot stop it. This is shown when he just tries to stop a clock hand- and when that breaks it seems to break something inside him that the whole clock must be broken in order to stop it. In order to break time for good.

The drawing and illustrations

Along with the story in the novel we have those beautiful drawings by Jim Kay. In the film also the stories were all done exquisitely in watercolour. The drawings represent Conor’s escapism into the folklore of the monster as well as a way to express himself when his grief has made him feel incredibly isolated. The illustrations represent how allowing yourself to imagine you can also teach yourself things as an addition to reality.

The stories and the monster

The stories the monster tells Conor do as stated show how people aren’t just good and evil, that people can just be greedy but honest too. People are grey and not just one pure thing and in telling Conor this he is also telling Conor that everyone is human. The stories are often a way to place feelings and fears into when sometimes words won’t do. Here is a paradox though as stories end and you’re still there afterwards, waiting. Life is going on. I feel the monster is giving Conor one of the most valuable lessons, that even after the story, you have to keep going. In telling Conor that’s okay and in his caring moments he is also representing his own words. The monster is scary, loud and over-bearing. He is life and he is death. But he is also kind, with reason and helpful with compassion. The monster is complex. Just like grief, just like healing and just like… being human.

What do you guys think? Did you spot anything else? Do you agree or disagree? Comment below- let’s have a discussion!

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