The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Face in the Abyss was published as a novel toward the end of A. Merritts career. A story with the same title appeared as a thirty-five-thousand-word story in 1923. After several years, Merritt wrote a sequel, “The Snake Mother.” The two stories were combined to form the novel, which develops two seamlessly integrated plots united by the archetypal theme of the curse of gold (greed), by the motif of the treasure hunt, and by the figure of the protagonist, the young American adventurer Nicholas Graydon, whose explorations of the jungles of Central America serve as the motivation for the storys many physical adventures.

The first adventure involves Graydon and a band of three ruthless American cutthroats—Starrett, Soames, and Dancret—and develops both the treasure-hunt motif and the theme of the curse of gold. Graydon has naïvely teamed with them, to his later regret. Their rapaciousness brings them into contact with the lost civilization of Yu-Atlanchi in the Andes Mountains. They abduct and mistreat the kingdoms princess, Suarra. Graydons three companions meet colorful deaths in their encounter with the evil and powerful “Face in the Abyss.”

The story smoothly evolves into its second and much longer plot, which details Graydons adventures in the kingdom of Yu-Atlanchi. Like all such quasi-utopian fantasy visions, it is based on Platos myth of the lost Atlantis. While in Yu-Atlanchi, Graydon encounters some of fantasy...

(The entire section is 432 words.)