The Picture in the House

  1. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    The way Lovecraft uses the word it simply means "very, very old".
     
    Mar 15, 2010
    #61
  2. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    *sigh* No, all the hints dropped in the text point to the madman having lived since Revolutionary times. He is clearly referring to 1768, not 1868.
     
    Mar 15, 2010
    #62
  3. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    This text in this thread already established that too, but the item's appearance was very old and God agreed.
     
    Mar 15, 2010
    #63
  4. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Once again, there is no direct link in the text (nor even a direct hint) of the involvement of God (any god) in the events of the tale. One may choose to read it that way, yes, but again this is an imposing of the reader's predisposition toward such rather than something emerging from the text itself.

    Again, the "thunderbolt" would, from everything the text offers, be entirely fortuitous. On the following:

    I don't see how the word "antediluvian" -- even if I agreed with it being applied in its strictly literal sense of "before the Noachian flood" --allows for such interference, or how the lack of such would make it impossible. As for the promise mentioned, that wouldn't apply here, either, as it wouldn't be the destruction of mankind, but the destruction of a single individual.

    However, this is a rater moot point, as there is no indication from the text itself that Lovecraft intends for us to read the presence of anything supernatural beyond the prolonged life of the strange old man; and in fact such a position would have been utterly alien to Lovecraft's worldview in both life and fiction. As he himself noted more than once, he had relegated "God" to the category of myth at the same time he did so for "Santa Claus"; the intervention of any Divine Being in any sort of tale except for an outright fantasy of the Dunsanian sort ((e.g., "The Doom That Came to Sarnath", The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath)would be complete anathema to him. (The participation of Yog-Sothoth in the events of "The Dunwich Horror", though having many similarities to the Graeco-Roman tales of divine or semi-divine parentage, is rather different as the nature of that entity(?) or force, though quite alien, is nonetheless not of a truly supernatural or divine sort.)

    The use of the word "antediluvian" has been explained above. To quote from the Oxford English Dictionary:

    also:

     
    Mar 15, 2010
    #64
  5. w h pugmire esq

    w h pugmire esq Well-Known Member

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    Tinsel's "unique" perspectives are bringing forth some really wonderful comments. This is an extremely good thing -- as is patience!
     
    Mar 15, 2010
    #65
  6. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Agreed... and the discussion itself is proving of interest in honing my own thoughts about this particular tale, as well....
     
    Mar 16, 2010
    #66
  7. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    That story is loaded with religious references, and than there was the dumbest ending to it. God promised not to destroy mankind again, and made the rainbow the sign to remember that by. Since the book had the appearance of something that existed before the flood, than that book is fair game. Not even Dunsany could imagine such a strange ending to that story, so that hypothesis is as good as any.
     
    Mar 16, 2010
    #67
  8. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Or if you want a more secular explanation than the only thing that I can think of is that he must have ran out of ink.
     
    Mar 16, 2010
    #68
  9. Pravuil

    Pravuil Bona na Croin

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    "God" made a covenant not to destroy man by means of a world-enveloping flood. He made no such covenant to never destroy man by any other means. The sign of this covenant, that he (He for those who are religious) would never expunge mankind by means of a worldwide flood, was God resting his bow in the sky whenever the windows of heaven should open (in other words, rain).

    If this story could be reasonably interpreted in the manner in which you're trying to interpret it, God destroying any man with a lightning bolt or in some other way affecting the outcome (who said the narrator died; maybe he was just knocked unconscious, one could say) is possible.

    I really think you're reading too much into this story, however.
     
    Mar 16, 2010
    #69
  10. imhotep

    imhotep Member

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    great atmosphere piece, good make a good short film if done right.
     
    Mar 16, 2010
    #70
  11. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Yes, the story is loaded with such references; but this is only to be expected when dealing with someone from that period, where theological self-examination was still very much a part of the American makeup (albeit the Puritans themselves had long been out of the spotlight). There is, however, nothing whatsoever in the text to indicate the interposition of any sort of god or, indeed, a supernatural being of any kind. The beliefs of any character are not necessarily correct or true within the context of a story; such is the case here, where the old man's beliefs reflect his age... as does his simply referring to "'sixty-eight"; to someone of such an age, "shorthand" like that is likely to refer to their own youth, rather than to a later repetition of a similar number. You can frequently see this in conversation with people who have lived a century and more.

    As for the book -- it did not have the appearnce of something which existed before the Flood. "Antediluvian" here is, as I noted above, used in its figurative sense of something of extreme age, something so old that it would carry the feeling of almost unnatural survival with it. (You can see the same use of the word in Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", where he refers to something as "a chorus line reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley filmroutine of the antediluvian 1930's".)

    I wouldn't call the ending "dumb", but it is certainly open-ended and ambiguous... though the narrator does survive How is a question which has vexed people for a very long time -- and the idea that it is the narrator's spirit speaking is a new one on me... an interesting idea, but one I don't think is supported by the text. By which I mean, the text gives one no preparation for such an eventuality, and it again becomes a "gimmick" ending, quite at odds with the sort of craft and care HPL took to insert subtle clues throughout to prepare a reader emotionally for even his "twist" endings, such as "The Shadow Over Innsmouth".

    As for the "he ran out of ink"... are you referring to the narrator, or HPL? In either case, not a viable option. No writer worth their salt, and certainly no editor worth theirs, would condone such a cheap trick to end a tale. The readers would be out for blood (and rightly so) even more than if it featured a deus-ex-machina. As for Lovecraft ending a story because he ran out of ink... that one is, frankly, nonsensical. He might have to stop writing a piece until he bought more ink (though usually he would borrow some from his aunts, a neighbor, etc.), but simply ending a story without resolution would, again, be total anathema to him, revolting to every instinct he had as a writer from the time he actually began to write at age 6 or 7.

    You don't need such a trick for an ending when the tale does give enough preparation (the repeated references to the building storm, the frank statement that the narrator's having survived the ghastly experience, etc.) to prepare one for such a resolution... the only problem with this ending is that it is abrupt and the narrator's survival (if the house actually were still standing and the old man were still living until its destruction) when the house itself is demolished:

    This is inserted immediately following the old man's halting in his speech, just before the narrator tells the nature of the interruption (the spot of blood dripping on the book from the ceiling). Lovecraft chose that detail and the way it is described very well (he also removed much more explicit hints as to the old man's cannibalism from earlier in the story, as Joshi's notes, referring to earlier versions of the tale, attest), so that it confirms all the suspicions of the narrator and reader as the old man's perversion while also inserting a rather picturesque, even ironic in its reserved phrasing and tone, element of macabre grue.
     
    Mar 16, 2010
    #71
  12. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    I doubt that God ever will be a character since that angels describe themselves in ways like, "I am who I am", and give other odd answers when asked who they are. It would be difficult to create that character.

    I have less trust in H.P.L than I do in what seems an abrupt conclusion. In his other stories the endings are satisfying. He must have ran out of time with the publisher.
     
    Mar 16, 2010
    #72
  13. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    ...and as to why he didn't finish the story after the deadline had elapsed might be because he could care less or else that he needed to beat the next deadline, but I like the explanation with God as the most satisfactory reason for the conclusion. Remember, this guy did not kill himself like all the others.
     
    Mar 16, 2010
    #73
  14. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Last of all, it is good for him that he didn't get too many published! If this God is as good as another, than Dagon and Jesus are on the same list although there was no mention of the name Jesus. It could all be the Ancient Greek gods like Zeus and the father of Zeus, and now come to think of it, there's those old alters in "The Rats in the Walls". In all cases the Gods operate in secret.
     
    Mar 16, 2010
    #74
  15. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

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    I did want to mention that the storm which causes the collapse of the house in this story is in fact foreshadowed, but J.D. has already done so. It's still not the most satisfactory ending Lovecraft ever wrote, which is why, for all the consummately creepy effects the story conjures up, I wouldn't rank it amongst Lovecraft's finest work.
     
    Mar 17, 2010
    #75
  16. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    The "I am that I am" was Yahweh himself speaking, rather than angels. And many have written God as a character over the years; more than you might believe.

    A) Why do you have less trust in him than what seems like an abrupt conclusion. (I would argue it is an abrupt conclusion, but planned out in advance, given his working methods.)

    B) In general, yes they are; though there are a few exceptions (at least to some people).

    C) HPL didn't write to deadlines. He wrote his stories and then submitted them, either for acceptance or rejection. This was the way most pulps worked, unless they were series pulps, such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger, etc., which were largely written by one person or a very small handful of people.

    Moreover, this was originally published in an amateur journal, not a professional magazine. Such things were anything but sticklers for deadlines... they couldn't afford to be, as they often had trouble with printers, late submissions, no submissions (necessitating the person issuing the journal filling some pages him or herself, or skipping an issue, or putting out something which was four pages in length -- all of which happened at times), etc. And, of course, if they attempted to put pressure on anyone submitting to them, being amateurs they would go elsewhere, leaving the publisher with nothing to print.

    Basically, you're completely off-beam with this approach. The documentation is there -- not only by Lovecraft, but by many, many others. Running out of time or ink or anything else simply doesn't enter into it. This was something he wrote for himself, because of an inspiration he received from the picture in Huxley's book, as well as discussions he had been having in his correspondence with friends on the subject of Puritanism and religious repression, isolation, and some of the peculiar corners of New England history.... Moreover, HPL made it known when he did first began submitting to the professional magazines, that he did not want any alterations; either they took the manuscripts as written, or sent them back. This, in fact, is a part of his letter accompanying the submission of his first stories to Weird Tales....

    A) Lovecraft didn't tend to write stories unless he was deeply committed to them; the "Herbert West" stories being among the very rare exceptions, and those were written for a friend who was issuing a new magazine. Even so, HPL took his own sweet time writing them, as the dates of composition show.

    B) The subject of deadlines has been addressed above.

    C) Which guy? HPL? Neither did Clark Ashton Smith, nor Henry S. Whitehead, nor most of the other writers of that circle. REH is, in fact, the only one who did commit suicide. The narrator? The old man? Basically, I am wondering what you are referring to. What others do you mean?:confused:

    I'm afraid you've completely lost me on this one.....:confused::confused::confused:
     
    Mar 17, 2010
    #76
  17. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Before long I'll be ready to finish off Lovecraft myself after listening to any more of this.
     
    Mar 17, 2010
    #77
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