Monk Odlethrop

Text: 
Display Name: 
Monk Odlethrop
Sort Name: 
Odlethrop, Monk
AKA: 
Stonewall Jackson Odlethrop
Race: 
White
Gender: 
Male
Class: 
Poor White
Rank: 
Major
Vitality: 
Born-and-Dies
Occupation: 
Sales and Service
Specific Job: 
Bootlegger, Gas Station Attendent
Origin: 
Pine hill country
Cause of Death: 
Executed
Biography: 

In "Monk," the mentally challenged title character is a mystery. Initially known only as "Monk," the narrator characterizes him as a "moron, perhaps even a cretin" (41), language offensive to modern readers but common and acceptable during the era of the story's composition. Near the end readers learn that his given name is actually Stonewall Jackson Odlethrop - though it is not clear exactly who gave him either of these names. He is born in the hill country east of Jefferson, presumably the unwanted child of Mrs. Odelethrop's son and a "hard" woman from somewhere else (43). These parents abandon him, and he lives for "six or seven years" with his grandmother (44) and then for "ten years" with a moonshiner named Fraser (45). According to the narrator, "all" Monk ever "learns" to do is "make and sell whiskey" (45), and "pump" gas and "make correct change" (46). He begins coming into town when he is "about twenty-five" - "pleasant, impervious to affront, talkative when anyone would listen" (46). The narrator labels him a "moron, perhaps even a cretin" (41), familiar terms to readers in 1937 but almost meaningless - and inadmissible - in the context of modern psychology. The narrative's one explicit description of Monk's mental deficiencies is a reference to the "curious quality of imperfect connection between sense and ratiocination" (46). He is convicted twice for two different killings, one of which he is framed for, but one of which he clearly committed. Yet through it all he retains a kind of innocence and helplessness that appeals to Gavin Stevens' sense of chivalry and perhaps the reader's sympathy. Stevens can solve part of the mystery of Monk's life and death, but the story leaves unresolved the complex problems of a society and legal system that fail to protect such a fragile individual.

Note: 
CUT: A descendent of Scotch-Irish settlers, he comes from the pine hill country in the eastern part of the county that is "impenetrable and almost uncultivated ad populated by a clannish people who owed allegiance to no one and no thing" (43).
Disability: 
cognitively disabled
Individual or Group: 
Individual
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Character