I guess my committee chair was right: there are some ginormous structuralist underpinnings in this project. I was re-reading Cohen's introduction to Monster Theory (for the eleventy billionth time), and I realized that I am assuming a general plot for monsters within texts. It may not be the main plot: it could be an incidental story or the overarching theme of the work, but it almost always turns out the same. The general story arc for monsters is that they threaten and then lose. It's so simple that many people have relied on it without stating it explicity or, having stated it explicitly, did not place it within its proper theoretical context.
But it is a structuralist precept in the classic sense. Grimm, Propp, et al. often got bogged down in detailing minute variations of story types--trying to create some sort of Linnean taxonomy of every single type and variant of that type. It not only was so ambitious as to be impossible, but it seemed to be of limited use even in its ideal form. On the other side of the register, Jung, Campbell, et al. often generalized similarities to the point that they were so vague and all-encompassing that one saw them in everything. How does one make a story without a protagonist and antagonist? How does the protagonist then not become a variant of (or response to) The Hero?
But as Edward Ingebretsen once wrote (I paraphrase): the monster exists to be killed, we must be the one who kills it, and it can never be our fault. Whether that monster is a personification of a cultural anxiety (Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, Freddy, witches) or a partial reification of an actual personage (the Japanese in WWII propaganda posters, OJ Simpson, Native Americans), the story plays out the same way. The monster threatens. We, the people, resist and fight (sometimes via proxy in the hero, sometimes not). The monster dies by our hand. Our anxieties are termporarily assuaged.
It's not a very interesting plot line, but it's just a terrifically general skeleton plot--a thing that Tolkien once complained was, no matter the text, either "wild, or trivial, or typical." The thing about it is its ability to provide comfort. I think it functions in the same way our favorite movies do. There's no doubt that Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby are going to save the General's lodge in White Christmas, and there's no doubt that Marvin's going to be shot in the head in Pulp Fiction. But I keep watching these movies even though I know what will happen. We keep re-reading books even though we know what's there. It's not because we want to see if Bing convinces Rosemary Clooney he's not a bad guy or if Beowulf can pull out one more battle with Grendel. No, we return for the show, not the score. In this sense, I think monsters really are like the Washington Generals. You go to watch the Harlem Globetrotters beat the snot out of them, and you want to see how it will be done, but God help the Generals if they actually win one because they'll make the kids in the stands cry. Same with monsters. They exist to lose to the hero or to us. They help us exorcise or excise our anxieties in a safe way.