Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Outsider, by H.P. Lovecraft
Hands down one of the best Lovecraft stories, and one that I could probably listen to over and over again. There are a lot of literary parallels between this and other writings that are said to inspire it, but in any case, this is sad and haunting genius and I love it.
I will point out, as I have before with Lovecraft stories, that my description of the story leaves no secrets as far as the plot is concerned so don't read further if you intend to read the story for the first time and desire some element of surprise.
The Outsider is a story of a man- at least, he believes himself to be human- that has lived his entire life in solitude, locked in a castle where he has never encountered anyone else. He is lonely and sad, and decides that he is going to break free. He climbs through the highest tower and through a trap door in the ceiling and ends up on the surface of another world entirely. He wanders across the surface, elated and rejoicing in his freedom, and comes across a castle filled with people having a party. He joins them, happy to finally be amongst others, but they scream in terror and run when they see him. He assumes something else has scared them, and traces around the room looking for it, when he spies the figure they're presumably afraid of and creeps slowly towards it. It is horrifying indeed, and is described as being of another world, decaying and twisted. In reaching up his hand to sheild himself from it, his fingers brush the surface and he recoils and runs in terror back to his castle, realizing that he can never be anything but an outsider, for the surface he touched had been a mirror and the twisted figure within was his own reflection.
I can't even count the number of times this, or something similar, has been done. Some of them predate this exact story, and some of them follow it, but this will always be my favorite telling of it.