The tone of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider is both pompous and forlorn, although an undercurrent of foreboding runs throughout. The first three sentences of the story, which recall biblical passages in their overblown formality, establish this succinctly:
Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. Wretched is he who looks back upon lone hours in vast and dismal chambers with brown hangings and maddening rows of antique books, or upon awed watches in twilight groves of grotesque, gigantic, and vine-encumbered trees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft. Such a lot the gods gave to me—to me, the dazed, the disappointed; the barren, the broken.
The story is also quite dreamlike, if not bizarre, in that its anonymous narrator denies ever having had contact with another living soul, save that of an elderly nurse. Nor can he explain how he has managed to survive on his own in the empty, crumbling castle. A stranger to time as well as purpose, he seems to exist in a perpetually twilit limbo, as evinced in the following passages:
It was never light, so that I used sometimes to light candles and gaze steadily at them for relief; nor was there any sun outdoors, since the terrible trees grew high above the topmost accessible tower.
So through endless twilights I dreamed and waited, though I knew not what I waited for.
The story's pompous or highly formalized tone, while helping to establish the utter incongruity contained in the piece, also serves to keep the reader at arm’s length throughout the story. This is perhaps an attempt to instill in the reader the same sense of unknowing the narrator experiences and to heighten the shock of the discovery the narrator makes in the story.