H.P. Lovecraft and Gothic Literature free essay sample
H. P. Lovecraft Gothic fiction has never been lacking in prolificacy. From Edgar Allen Poe to Stephen King, this haunting literary class has yielded innumerable works of timeless creativity and imagination. Just as works from all genres exploit some emotion of the reader, Gothic fiction utilizes horror and shock. Many writings of the genre play on substantial, concrete fears, like murder; however, the works of one agent of this dark literary philosophy go beyond specific, rationalizable phobias.
This writer was Howard Philips Lovecraft, and the focus of his stories rarely consisted of the mundane and terrestrial. He employed a different kind of fear in his works; a fear of what the reader can’t, or possibly shouldn’t, understand. As he stated in his study of the Gothic Horror genre, Supernatural Horror in Literature, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
Lovecraft is known for weaving stories with otherworldly elements, be it an immortal alien god (The Call of Cthulhu) or a reptilian precursor civilization (The Nameless City). He had a knack for reminding us that we are insignificant in the grand scheme of things; usually through the implication of unfathomable forces that wouldn’t think twice about eradicating mankind. These horrifying evils that act as hopelessly powerful antagonists are a common theme across Lovecraft’s tales, as are their obscurity to the general populace of his stories.
Lovecraft’s portrayal of a society that is blissfully unaware of its own fragility is often paired with a single protagonist that is drawn into events that are incomprehensibly epic in scope. If this poor witness to Lovecraft’s horrors survives with some of their sanity intact, their attempts to warn civilization of those perils are met with ignorance and disbelief. In these stories, humanity has no hope for survival against the eldritch abominations that lie beneath the depths of the ocean and beyond the expanses of space.
This is horror on a civilizational scale – rather than simply fear for the protagonist, the reader fears for mankind. Lovecraft’s message, in the end, always seems to imply that humanity is better off oblivious to its condemned fate. The fates of characters that learn of the horrific forces at work beyond the veil of human perception often reflect this concept. In The Rats in the Walls, a man is driven to insanity and cannibalism when he learns of his ancestors’ dark past and in
The Call of Cthulhu a sailor goes insane and dies after looking directly at the submarine, monstrous, demigod Cthulhu. A character’s curiosity is often their downfall, and very rarely does it not cost them their lives or their minds. One exception might be the protagonists of The Dunwich Horror, in which three professors defeat an abomination summoned by local townspeople, literally sending it crying back to its celestial father. Triumphs like this are rare in Lovecraft’s works, and usually come at a great cost. H. P.
Lovecraft employed fascinating lore and mystery in his short stories and novellas, using fantasies of ancient secrets and forgotten history. His writing has remained relevant for almost a century, largely due to his unique use of the epic and the occult. Lovecraft’s writing style was unprecedented even by his idol, Edgar Allen Poe, and it has influenced countless modern writers including Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. He is said to have pioneered – or even created – the genres of cosmic horror and weird fiction, and elements of his literature can be found throughout modern culture.
From a Black Sabbath song based on a Lovecraft story (Beyond the Wall of Sleep) to a popular video game bearing the name of a Lovecraftian city (Batman: Arkham City), his influence can be seen in all walks of life. It’s no surprise; Lovecraft’s writing is epic in scope, and captivating to read. It is exceptional in that Lovecraft created a saga like no other author has; a universe in which mankind inhabits an anthill on a cosmic driveway.