Horror Stories And Berserk Ancestry English Literature Essay

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Horror writing has been around for many, many years. Most would agree that the most famous and recognizable author would be Edgar Allan Poe, whose works were written during the eighteen-hundreds and whose "writing style [is] known for its creepy atmosphere and lurking fears" (Merriman). His work inspires many still today, but really caught the eye of a man by the name of H.P. Lovecraft. H.P. Lovecraft's father died when he was a young child; therefore he had a tremendous amount of stress on him at all times. He also frequently experienced night-terrors which later influenced his writings (Joshi). One short story by H.P. Lovecraft is "The Rats in the Walls," in which a man named Delapore decides to spend his later years occupying his ancestral estate in southern England, and when his research team goes into a knighted crypt, and they come upon a horrific sight (Lovecraft, "Rats"). A second short story is "The Shadow over Innsmouth" in which Robert Olmstead is coming of age, so he goes to England to celebrate and comes across a town called Innsmouth, where half the population is gone and the other half are left deformed for unknown reasons. The last short story is "The Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family," in which Arthur Jermyn has family secrets that no one is to know about and he feels as though it's his job to find out exactly what those secrets are. Throughout these three short stories Lovecraft brings forth incredible connections between the idea that bloodline descendants can never escape the haunting memories of their forebears, being psychically and mentally affected by their guilt and finding out that ancestors may very distant in the family, but still can cling within their descendant.

The idea that descendants in a bloodline can never escape the stain of crimes committed by their forebears is strongly represented in all three of the short stories. In "The Rats in the Walls," Delapore tries to start a normal and calm life, yet he finds something completely unexpected which is "a sea of foamy bones in the basement" (Book Reviews) in the home of his ancestors. Delapore is simply an older man who just wants a break from his former hectic lifestyle. He had no idea that he was getting himself into his family history which "consists of kidnapping, witchcraft and murders" (Lovecraft Encyclopedia).

The short story "The Shadow over Innsmouth" certainly shows Robert's obsession with discovering what happened in this little town of Innsmouth. "Robert's father died in a sanatorium from syphilis-induced brain damage, [it seems as] the son might well have carried the scars of it for the remainder of his life" (Lovecraft, "Shadow") because he always knew something particular was different about his family which never left him. Later in during his journey, Robert finds a man named Zodak Allen, who informs him about a man by the name of Obed Marsh. Marsh is said to be the reason the whole town is distorted from human character traits. In Innsmouth, everyone looks extremely inscrutable resembling an "Innsmouth look" which is a "queer narrow heads with flat noses and bulgy, starry eyes" (Lovecraft, "Shadow"). The town is described in great detail as a crumbling, mostly deserted town full of dilapidated structures and people who look just a bit odd and who tend to walk with a distinct shambling gait (Davis).

"The Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and his Family" has many family secrets and Arthur Jermyn has to finish out his family researches (Lovecraft, "Facts Concerning"). The information he finds out isn't pleasing to him at all. In fact his distant family members "Sir Robert Jermyn killed nearly his entire family as well as a fellow African explorer who had brought back strange tales from the area of Sir Wade's explorations" (Lovecraft Encyclopedia). Lovecraft describes how the Jermyn family has a peculiar physical appearance that began to appear in the children of Wade Jermyn and his mysterious and reclusive wife, whom Wade claimed was Portuguese (Joshi).

Additionally, the characters of these three short stories are affected physically and mentally by the crimes of their ancestors. In "The Rats in the Walls," Delapore is constantly reminded of his family history and reputation, which is the reason he changed the spelling of his name from "De la Poer" to Delapore. "When Delapore finds that some bones have rings bearing his own coat of arms, he realizes the truth- his family has been the leaders of an ancient cannibalistic witch-cult" (Lovecraft Encyclopedia). He was not expecting to find something so demented that will change the way he views his family and life forever.

Similarly, the narrator in "The Shadow over Innsmouth" happens to wind up in Innsmouth and finds more new secrets about his family. "For we learn, at the end, that the narrator is being called back to Innsmouth by an irresistible force calling subtly and voicelessly, to his blood" (Davis) which means that his family has kept an eye on him since the day he was brought on this earth.

Finally, when an unusual box arrives at the Jermyn household, one of the Jermyns opens the box, looks in it, and sees an exact resemblance of Arthur Jermyn which sets him aflame. Somehow that box has made its way to the Jermyn household. Therefore it most likely was sent by one of the ancestors who has committed a similar crime and has come back to haunt the descendants. The Jermyns all live in the same household and have for decades and decades, which also makes one believe that the crime coming back to haunt the Jermyn who opened the box, was committed right there in his own home. The characters in H.P. Lovecraft's short stories are all affected physically and mentally by the crimes committed by their ancestors.

Finally, Lovecraft shows how descendants may be very far removed, both in place and in time and from the act itself, and yet, they will still be lingering with their descendant. In the first place, "The Rats in the Walls"' main character Delapore spends his later years in a home that hasn't been occupied by anyone in years, yet he still finds lingering deeds. Delapore says that "They had hated it hundreds of years before, when my ancestors lived there, and they hate it now, with the moss and mold of abandonment on it. I had not been a day in Anchester before I knew I came upon an accursed house" (Book Reviews) as he approaches the home. He has never ever even seen his ancestors, yet they somehow still linger in the house even though they are long gone.

In addition, "The Shadow over Innsmouth" also has Robert going into the mountains of Innsmouth and realizing that this is where his ancestors committed their horrendous crimes. The narrator "is still struggling with the blood of an ancestor and still worrying that his father's blood within him will call him to commit the same unspeakable acts [as] the father did" (Davis). Only the people who were present in Innsmouth at the time these crimes occurred really know what happened. People around the country and in the nearby towns muttered a great deal among themselves, but said very little to the outer world. They had talked about dying and half-deserted Innsmouth for nearly a century, and nothing new could be wilder or more hideous than what they had whispered and hinted years before (Lovecraft Encyclopedia). Robert Olmstead figures out that he's great grandmother is the daughter of Obed Marsh, the man who mates with the "deep ones". The "deep ones" are the frog-like creatures that live in the bottom of the sea that the people in Innsmouth resemble.

Following this further, in "The Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family", anyone who has ever known any of the Jermyn's tries their best to stay as far away from them as possible because of their reputation. "If we knew what we are, we should do as Sir Arthur Jermyn did; and Arthur Jermyn soaked himself in oil and set fire to his clothing one night," (Lovecraft, "Facts Concerning") simply means that some hidden background within a family are better to be left unknown. Lovecraft shows how descendants may be very far removed, both in place and in time and from the act itself, and yet, they will still cling with their descendant.

Clearly throughout these three short stories written by H.P. Lovecraft, he shows incredible connections between the idea that descendants in a bloodline can never escape the haunting memories by their forebears, being psychically and mentally affected by their guilt and finding out that ancestors may very distant in the family, but still can cling within their descendant. H.P. Lovecraft's short stories have so many deep connections within themselves that are presented in every aspect of his stories. In conclusion to all this, Lovecraft was trying to prove a point: don't commit crimes because in reality, they will forever come back to haunt the criminal's family all the way until the stain reaches the bottom of the family tree.