The sixth and final part of Herbert West’s story finally sees the relationship between West and the narrator deteriorate completely. After Part V, in which West begins to reanimate parts of the human body, rather than a full corpse, the narrator of the story becomes disillusioned with his friend’s work. This begs the question of why this man would stay in West’s company as he becomes increasingly paranoid and deranged. It is recounted how West begins to look upon the narrator with an unnerving hunger, as well as other able-bodied people. While others do not understand the look West gives, they do perceive the fear of the narrator, and so this is why the police suspect him of foul play in the disappearance of Herbert West.
However, the narrator maintains his innocence and recounts how all the different specimens that he and West brought back to life assembled and. . . well. It isn’t pretty. And the last part of this piece shows the other-worldliness HPL was famous for. While this tale doesn’t deepen the religious mythos, it does ground readers firmly in the places that will play larger roles in the stories to come. Overall, not my favorite HPL piece, but likely a good sampling of his work.
The Picture in the House marks the first story HPL ever wrote introducing the fictional New England places like the Miskatonic Valley and Arkham. These places reoccur in HPL’s stories and form a central “place” for much of the Cthulhu Mythos.
This tale, however, doesn’t get into the where too much and instead focuses on a book within a home that the narrator comes upon when a storm rolls in when he is cycling along.
The house in question is decayed and is perhaps reminiscent of the House of Usher, though no connection is made between these in the notes in this annotated version. The narrator is an educated man and obviously well read as he recognizes many some of the books on a shelf within the house, though the house seems uninhabited. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is an image in the book that is deeply disturbing to the narrator. The book, however, seems to fall open to this page on its own accord. At first, I thought there was some strange magic at play within this story, but it is made clear that the book is falling to this page and this image because of it is the most observed. At this point, a man comes down who has the appearance of vast age, though is large and perhaps more healthy than a man living in such conditions might be. The old man is infatuated with the image that causes the narrator such distress.
This piece is Poe-esk in its revelation of information. It also is uniquely Lovecraftian in the sense of the unknown fear. The narrator is filled with unease throughout the piece, but cannot pinpoint the source of it until the very end.
There are two allusions to the disturbing illustration in question that focuses on the fact that the image portrays black people as having caucasian skin. While the image in question is ghastly, it is noted in this annotated version, that the black and white image cannot accurately portray the peoples’ skin tone. I dare say, however, HPL would have found it disturbing and terrifying due to his bigoted views. I feel I cannot comment on this piece or any of HPL’s work without condemning such narrow-minded prejudice.
Like Dagon, The Statement of Randolph Carter is a confession or explanation of the narrator’s odd behavior. And like Dagon, Randolph Carter’s story is that of an anecdote. Someone changes in the course of events, but it not the narrator, and what he experiences firsthand is limited and vague. The label of pulp HPL as awarded back in his lifetime and directly after is surely well earned by this type of story. While the unknowable horror that is or is to become Cthulhu in later writings is mentioned at length here, it is only the incomprehensible nature of said horror that is conveyed. No specifics are given.
My question and curiosity, in this story specifically, is this: how can a writer create a fulfilling plot when specificity and elaboration would ruin the intent of communicating the unknowable. To me, it is obvious HPL was burdened by the constraints of the English language, likely as a whole, but surely in its written form. I am sure he would have despised the idea, being the bigot that he was, but the learning of a second and third language might have helped me convey a more thorough account of his horrors (perhaps ironically). As I journey into the Cthulhu mythos throughout the coming year I hope HPL’s ideas manifest in more specific, concrete ways. While this is an idea of a piece, it is, as plot, woefully incomplete.