The Dunwich Horror and Others Essay - Critical Essays

H. P. Lovecraft


“Howard Phillips Lovecraft,” Fritz Leiber once wrote, “was the Copernicus of the horror story. He shifted the focus of supernatural dread from man and his little world and his gods, to the stars and the black and unplumbed gulfs of intergalactic space.” Eschewing both the traditional ghostly trappings of the gothic and the formulaic action and romance of the popular “scientifiction” of his day, Lovecraft combined a classical style derived from a voluminous reading of eighteenth century literature with a technique of careful realism, rooted in the soil of his native New England, to create a fictional universe in which the human race is of profound insignificance. In a 1927 letter to Weird Tales editor Farns-worth Wright, he declared, “Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large.” He avoided the assumption that human passions, conditions, and standards would apply to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, he believed that one must forget the existence of such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such attributes of humanity.

“The Call of Cthulhu,” written in 1926, is Lovecraft’s first important tale to reflect this philosophy. He considered “The Colour Out of Space” (1927) his best story because it came...

(The entire section is 470 words.)