Tuesday, January 22, 2013

3 Lovecraftian Character Archetypes

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."

The Cthulhu Mythos connoisseur created a little clutter of characters in his lifetime which became constant features in much of his fiction. A casual reading of Lovecraft's works would inform the mind of the recurrence of three character archetypes the master of horror employed as his protagonists. At least, it's what I believe, you might harbor a different opinion. It's allowed.

Photo: david-j-west.blogspot.com

1. The Explorer
Probably, the most consistent character in Lovecraft's tales, this character usually sets off on a quest for the unknown driven by a whiff of information. A character who exhibits an investigative disposition and is fully aware and  understands the consequences of such hideous adventure but decides to go ahead  anyway.

The profile of this fictional character is summed up by the words of a peculiar Lovecraftian character who appears in the story, The Lurking Fear. In the story, this personality declares,
"I am a connoisseur in horrors."
Such characters take it as their responsibility to explore the unknown, to find the source of the terror and if possible, destroy it. There is a pervading sense of obligation to things of the macabre. The primary inclination of these fictional people is best explained by the words of another Lovecraft character;
"Burning curiosity began to displace all other feelings and I enlarged my investigations as best I could."

"It is for this latter reason that I urge, with all the force of my being, final abandonment of all the attempts at unearthing those fragments of unknown, primordial masonry which my expedition set out to investigate. Assuming that I was sane and awake, my experience on that night was such as has befallen no man before. It was, moreover, a frightful confirmation of all I had sought to dismiss as myth and dream."

2. The Victim
There is a prototype of this character portrayed in the Lovecraft story, Pickman's Model where the protagonist comes in contact with an artist bearing the titular name and his painting. Pickman is in the process of painting a monster that the main character misinterprets as the artist's imagination until he discovers the awful truth.

The Victims are secondary hosts who experience horror only through their association with a primary host who has made contact with some sort of paranormal activity.

"No, I don't know what's become of Pickman, and I don't like to guess. You might have surmised I had some inside information when I dropped him — and that's why I don't want to think where he's gone. Let the police find what they can — it won't be much, judging from the fact that they don't know yet of the old North End place he hired under the name of Peters."
Pickman's Model

Another example is one of Lovecraft's most famous works, The Call of Cthulhu. A character comes in contact with the papers of his great-uncle. Said papers seem to be possessed by the spirit which haunted a young artist and ultimately led to his death. It also led to the death of the main character's great-uncle and has likely rearranged the psyche of this character by the time the story turns for home. The displaced wanderer/traveler who finds haunted lodging also comes under this point.

"That was the document I read, and now I have placed it in the tin box beside the bas-relief and the papers of Professor Angell. With it shall go this record of mine - this test of my own sanity, wherein is pieced together that which I hope may never be pieced together again. I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me. But I do not think my life will be long."
The Call of Cthulhu

3. The Inventor

"He no longer treated me so much like a friend as like an implement in his skilled and greedy fingers. I found him possessed of unexpected traits - little examples of baseness and cruelty, apparent even to the hardened Simes, which disturbed me in a most unusual manner. Often he would display extraordinary cruelty to live specimens in his laboratory, for he was constantly carrying on various hidden projects in glandular and muscular transplantation on guinea-pigs and rabbits."
The Disinterment

Lovecraftian tales like The Disinterment portray characters who are desperate inventors. The mad scientist persona is another popular feature in Lovecraft's tales. These inventors include alchemists and as a matter of fact, there's a Lovecraft work that goes by that name.
These set of Lovecraftian characters are usually involved in inventions bordering on insanity. These would stop at nothing to achieve their goals and often, perform experiments to alter natural processes like death.

Lovecraft's fictional people could possibly be classified under broader terms. This is just a personal shot at understanding the works of a master of the craft.
Hope you were inspired.

Keep your pen bleeding!


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