Monday, February 1, 2010

The Outsider

Short Story by H.P. Lovecraft

The unnamed first person narrator lives in a sunless forest in a dark castle, with only books for company. One day he climbs a tower in hopes of finally seeing the sun.

The big twist that I'm avoiding spoiling for this story is a) done to death, even in Lovecraft's time, b) so heavily foreshadowed that you figure it out long before it is revealed and c) not really meant to surprise, in my reading of the story, although the final line makes it seem like we should be.

A very dream-like story, with heavy language and a sort of haziness. Lovecraft himself thought that this one was too imitative of Poe, and I can see where he's coming from, but that doesn't make it bad. But rather than horror, I see this more as a Gothic style story about loneliness. That is the one thread that really ties everything together, the narrator is doomed to be alone.

The last page or so gets a bit weird, with a couple paragraphs of unrelated, summed-up narration between when the Big Revelation occurs, and when the reader is told it (once again, everyone has figured it out already anyway). This part really threw me off, but the talk of Nepenthe really does tie the story together. Anyway, I guess this is a sad story rather than a scary one, and so the big scary revelation being obvious doesn't really hurt things, because empathy does not require surprise. The plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you get thinking about it, so it is important to focus on the atmosphere and the feeling of aloneness. 3 out of 5 unholy abominations would have better self-esteem with some Ancient Egyptian anti-depressants.

No comments: