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Thread: Lovecraft Q.
14-10-2011, 12:46 PM #1
WARNING: OBTUSENESS AHEAD
I recently finished The Shadow out of Time and was left non-plussed by the ending, an ending which is apparently jaw-dropping. Would anyone care to enlighten me as to exactly what the implications of the final passage are that I'm evidently missing?
To help jog folks' memories, this is the passage in question:
"No eye had seen, no hand had touched that book since the advent of man to this planet. And yet, when I flashed my torch upon it in that frightful abyss, I saw that the queerly pigmented letters on the brittle, aeon-browned cellulose pages were not indeed any nameless hieroglyphs of earth's youth. They were, instead, the letters of our familiar alphabet, spelling out the words of the English language in my own handwriting."
Doesn't this merely affirm that the narrator's memories (of having been in aeons past a 'captive mind' in an alien body) were real rather than the dreams he'd previously rationalised them away as? And if so ... so what? I can't imagine any reader ever having thought otherwise even if the narrator has to plot his own course. What am I missing here?
Last edited by Rii; 14-10-2011 at 12:51 PM.
14-10-2011, 01:27 PM #2
I think it's all context and your background.
A similar thing IMHO is the "grand reveal" in Soylent Green, which if you've ever read any 2000AD, only prompts a "meh, so?"Admin for the RPS Divisions of Death
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14-10-2011, 01:38 PM #3
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- Jun 2011
Took me some time to realise you re not talking about videogames there...
I think the point of the end is just to reaffirm what we already know, that he was in fact captive. I think it is more for the protagonist than for us, if it makes any sense. That in the end all his horrible suspicions, dreams and all the stuff he doesn't want to accept, is real. Also you have to bear in mind the time when this was written, there was no 2000AD or movies or comics. At the time it must have had a very different effect to the reader, as he/she had not been bombarded with all the sci-fi/horror stories we have seen since we were young.
14-10-2011, 02:05 PM #4
14-10-2011, 06:50 PM #5
And there were certainly elements that could've been used to good effect: we learn very little of the things under the trapdoors wot the Great Race fears and which eventually lead them to abandon their present bodily forms for others in another time and place. Why not have our narrator a little hazier in the past about the future of the Great Race, and have him discover that future in the course of exploring the ruins with the implication that the thing wot the Great Race fled is still there, brooding, with terrifying implications for the future of humanity?
That would've been far more interesting than spending the last third of the story having the protagonist become convinced of that which (and only that which) he has already related to us.
Also you have to bear in mind the time when this was written, there was no 2000AD or movies or comics. At the time it must have had a very different effect to the reader, as he/she had not been bombarded with all the sci-fi/horror stories we have seen since we were young.
And it's not like Lovecraft does this all the time. His tales often feature a narrator relating past events, but most of them are deliberately constructed - often painfully so - so as to leave certain details obscured from the reader until the appropriate time, such that the reader does not have the complete story until, well, the end of the story. The Shadow out of Time is the only Lovecraft tale I've read to have disappointed in this particular fashion, and this coming nearly at the end of my Lovecraftian explorations.*
* Actually I thought I was done with the superlative At The Mountains of Madness, but learning (via that tale's entry on Wikipedia) of a Lovecraft tale set in Australia caused me to hasten onwards. As it stands I have only The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath ahead before I think I'll call it a day.
Last edited by Rii; 19-10-2011 at 05:44 AM.
15-10-2011, 01:44 AM #6
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- Attack thenarrative like a radiant suicide
<a href="http://hppodcraft.com/">I don't have anything to add but if you haven't checked it out already here is the H.P. Podraft!!</a>
Great for bedtime stories....
15-10-2011, 12:57 PM #7
Oo I think Dream-Quest was my favourite book of his when i was a bit younger, its a little different since its more of an adventure book then an out-right gothic horror.
15-10-2011, 05:34 PM #8
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- Jun 2011
Also it is implied the hideous things under the trapdoor are still around. This is really one of his more overt sci-fi stories than a horror piece though, his own explanation is that he'd been intrigued by the notion of time travel as presented in the film (in which an American is transported back to 18th century London where he meets his ancestors) but saw some issues with the idea of bodily time travel; he considered the method utilised by the Great Race of Yith to be the answer to those perceived problems.
18-10-2011, 09:39 AM #9
EDIT: OMG he met Nyarlathotep!
Last edited by Rii; 21-10-2011 at 05:10 AM.