Absent dialogue, heavy point of view
This evening after grilling ribeyes for Kathy and I, I managed to sit on the front porch and complete my reading of H.P. Lovecraft’s flagship short story, “The Call of Cthulhu”. I find it very odd that I have been aware of this story and its significance in the fiction world for a long time but just got around to reading it. What follows is my point of view on this story while trying to steer clear of major spoilers lest you have not read it yet.
“The Call of Cthulhu” stirs a lot of thought as you read it and you can see the eccentric mind of Lovecraft at work. The complete absence of dialogue lends to the lonely aura the story exhudes. At first I thought I was getting into something I might not enjoy and might have put it down never to crack the pages again except for the high praise this and other Lovecraft stories have received over the years.
As I stuck with the long-winded prose I began to understand the statement that was being made. When you look at the fact that Lovecraft had few friends he ever socialized with in person, he actually had many friends he corresponded with via mail. Thus, I can understand how a person would have difficulty showing the intimacy of personal conversation. Perhaps that would have been considered a weakness for him to write stories so personal.
As one reads the short story, you get the sense there is no character development but perhaps Lovecraft disdains the need to show a development of a character because the idea is not how the character develops but how he is horrified as realization of the being and his diabolic plans are coming to fruition. One gets the feeling at first that he is distant from the protagonist but suddenly at some point you realize that YOU are the protagonist and you are seeing the dreadful story unfold through your own eyes via the first person method of delivery.
Even though it is a short story, it is divided into three chapters. In the first chapter we see the narrating protagonist being dragged into the duty of executing his late uncle’s estate. There he finds certain papers and a small statue that begins his inquiry into matters that eventually involve him with the longstanding secrets that only a few know about.
The second chapter we see the investigation of the mystery of Cthulhu and this is where the story actually begins to take on the aspects of a horror tale. The investigation leads the reader down a trail of no return for the things discovered are so abhorrent that we have to know what is at the bottom of this great mystery surrounding the small statue made of stone of unknown origin.
Finally, in the third chapter we listen to a recount of a Norwegian seaman who saw the actual horrors of Cthulhu and the narrator finally discovers more about his uncle’s bizarre death which only makes him fearful for his own life.
Lovecraft has a very creative mind and a method of storytelling than can put you to sleep at times but when the story starts building, you can’t put it down. You feel like you have unearthed some very private documents that aren’t for everyone’s eyes and the knowledge you are absorbing could actually be detrimental to your own existence. You begin reading “The Call of Cthulhu” feeling pretty mighty and intelligent but when you are done you feel like an important pawn, necessary for the fate of the universe but expendable nonetheless. What we learn that we humans have a unique role to fulfill and that there are other beings even more intelligent than we lurking in the darkness waiting to spring to life.
- by J.Wade Harrell,
author of Shadows of Siernod and Flames of Palamarr