3/30: “The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft (Part II)

Cthulhu plays a key role in the story as the antagonist. He is the lord of R’lyeh and an ancient being that came from the stars hundreds of millions of year ago with its people to war against eh Elder Things of Earth. He is a “thing cannot be described” but called “the green, sticky spawn of the starts”, with “flabby claws” and an “awful squid-head with writhing feelers.” He resembles as an octopus, dragon and human. Many people have feared him yet praised him too. The cult chants its horrid phrase or ritual: “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” This shows that he is so powerful and probably the one that started the civilization from the “Old ones” and the cult followers yet he still could instill fear in them. Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones represent uncontrolled power and infinite destructive potential. But the idea that Cthulhu is asleep in his city represents how destruction can be avoided if humanity does not delve into it.

Lovecraft uses the past and history to create horror and fear. The idea appeals to a primitive human fear of the unknown which is why Lovecraft uses the past to instill fear. He believes that the future cannot be predicted without a past. With history, it is something we don’t know anything about it since the idea been played around a lot. History is way to create fear in the idea that the creature may be real. Lovecraft created a world that broke the cliché of humans that overcome every single adversity, by creating colossal monstrosities, hopelessness and hardworking yet weak human race. Lovecraft added a new level of tension when it comes to horror fiction stories where people in their stories, didn’t matter their background or beliefs, they were all going to die no matter what. To think that there are theses beings that are beyond contemplation is to evoke a sense of madness and panic that can only be found in an atmosphere of the unknown.

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3/26: “The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft

The opening lines of the story carry on the fundamental idea found in most of Lovecraft’s work; that the ignorance of what truly exists in alternate dimensions of reality is a fragile solace, for if humanity were to ever discover the sheer of terror at what beings and worlds exists parallel to ours, it would not have the mental and/or emotional fortitude to withstand the shock and would descend into an inescapable madness. This is a staple of Lovecraft’s work and is very unique in its take on horror. Where many authors would support the idea of, “show, don’t tell,” Lovecraft, instead, embraces the idea that the reader can potentially conjure up more horrific and terror inducing images based on small bits of information given through text, than the author could hope to do through the use of highly descriptive diction and story telling.

The story is structured in a framed narrative, with the primary narrator studying the notes written by his Granduncle.  The notes go on to describe the experience of a Police Officer who had encountered a branch of the Cthulhu Cult. The narrator discovers more information from a newspaper clipping and then finally discovers the truth behind the clay statue from a manuscript of a sailor who had an encounter with Cthulhu himself. This style is quite reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, which is also written using various narrative frames such as diary entries and newspaper clippings.

The artist serves as a means of visually stimulating the curiosity and intrigue of both the narrator as well the reader. The dreamer adds to the mysticism and obscure atmosphere of the story, with its subtle plot and slow rising, yet effective, action and intensity. The scholar does the job of solidifying the idea that the peoples in question are a globally active cult that shares practices and rituals based on an ancient cult religious idea.

Aleister Crowley, who himself was greatly involved in the occult and black magic, wrote often of beings and realities that existed beyond/parallel to ours. Claiming to communicate and have personal relationships to ancient beings, such as the Egyptian Gods, Crowley spent a large part of his life immersed in an out worldly trance like state, especially when it came to his writings and/or artwork.  While some may argue that this this might be a way in which some attempt to shroud personal doubt and insecurity in the guise of higher knowledge, there are others who believe that such ways of thinking and artistic expression offer a greater spiritual fulfillment than trying to quantify and rationalize the world and reality as we know it.

3/23: “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James (Part III)

In “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, the governess adores Miles and Flora when she first meets them. She then quickly becomes suspicious of their every word and action, convinced that they hope to deceive her. She frequently switches back to being absolutely sure of their pure innocence and sometimes shows a huge amount of affection towards them. Because of the governess’s actions and views on the children, it made me unsure of the children’s innocence. I believe that if we were able to hear the same story from Miles’s and Flora’s perspective, it may be different. The times the governess thinks that the children are evil and interacting with ghosts, it is mostly likely all up in her head. At first I believed that the children are normal. They were obedient and acted like perfect children from the beginning until the governess started seeing ghosts which coincidently affected the children’s behavior. From reading from the text, it can be gathered that children started drifting away from the governess such as they would start keeping things from her and keep secrets from any adults they encountered. They would randomly run out of the house or refuse to follow anything the governess would order them to do. So from looking at this, it is difficult to see if they are good or bad children. They started off good but ended up being strange once the governess started seeing the ghosts. I don’t think they are in league with the ghosts but it is probably because of the ghosts, there was a drastic change in the children’s behavior or it could probably just be all up in the governess’s head. I guess we will never know!

When I hear of Miles and Flora, I think of the children from the horror film, “Mama”. It is about how two young girls abandoned in a forest cabin is fostered by an unknown entity that they fondly call “Mama”, which eventually follows them to their new home after their uncle retrieves them. The children come out very innocent from the beginning, not aware of what’s going on. Once they were taken in by their uncle and his girlfriend, their “Mama” followed them to continue care for them in their new environment. This put strange behaviors in the children which made the uncle’s girlfriend very suspicious of the children. She would see appearances of a shadowy, monstrous figure in their doorway meeting with the children. This caused her to have her suspicions and doubts on the innocence of the children. This movie similarly reflects to novel “The Turn of Screw” with the children appearing innocent at first but then acting strange once accompanied by the ghosts.

Mama (2013)

Mama (2013)

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Mama and one of the children.

3/19: “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James (Part II)

After finishing “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, we learn a lot about the governess and her interaction with the kids, Miles and Flora. I found her to be a fascinating character but was never quite sure how trustworthy she is as a narrator. At first, I thought she was an extremely dedicated and caring teacher and that it was understandable why she was close to the kids on a certain level than most teachers. But once her paranoia hits her, it just became too much and too overbearing.  We learn that she is clearly something of a romantic, at least at the beginning, and this inclination contributes to her acceptance of the job at Bly. Though she only meets her employer, the kid’s uncle, twice, she’s definitely swept off her feet and spends the rest of the story secretly in love with him or somewhere along the line of that. Because of her obsession with the kid’s uncle, this may explain why she is touchy-feely with the kids. With that being said, I don’t think the governess is an appropriate teacher. She oversteps her boundaries. She gets too close, physically, as a teacher with the kids but she also spends too much time obsessing over the fact that the kids are visited by the ghosts than actually spending and taking care of the kids itself. Throughout the reading, I noticed that she get physically close with the kids not just regularly but in a more maniacal level. Not only does she embraces or kisses them but she also has these spasms in which she hurts them like the incident that occurred with Flora. She gets double minded about her views on the kids therefore not a very suitable characteristic as a teacher. One day she’ll praise them, the next day, she will have her suspicions of them. I guess that she was concerned with how the kid’s uncle may see her, she pushed herself to the children to the point that it became too much on both sides. She becomes too focus on acting more of a mother than a teacher. Yes, it is important to care for the kids but it also important to correct and guide the kids with more of a disciplinary action which the governess failed to do. The governess stands out as a neurotic, sexually repressed woman, whose hidden desires drive her mad.

The Innocents (1961) GIF from http://nitratediva.tumblr.com/

The Innocents (1961)
GIF from http://nitratediva.tumblr.com/

After learning about the governess, how she is as a teacher and her interactions in with kids, I got the understanding that she is like Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix. They both are super crazy. Umbridge becomes very controlling of her students and gets attached to how Hogwarts should be run. This becomes her obsession just like how the ghosts visiting the kids become the governess’s obsession. They both won’t let go of things easily until they got it their way no matter how crazy they may sound.

3/16: “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James

“The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James was an intriguing story and a real eye opener depending how the readers took the “truth”. The story starts of in an old house on a Christmas Eve where the subject of ghosts is brought up. A man named Douglas introduces a story that involves two children, Flora and Miles, and his sister’s governess. The governess recorded her experiences and events she has dealt with during her time as a governess. We learn that the governess was hired to take care of the two children who had been left under the care of an uncle who was also a handsome bachelor which convinced her to work for him along with the fact that the previous governess, Miss Jessel, died. Douglas reads from the written record and the story shifts to the governess’s point of view as she narrates her strange experience. The day the governess starts working, she grows very fond of the children who would never cause anyone any trouble despite the fact that Miles has been discharged from his school. According to Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, believed that Miles was just too good for a regular school. The governess enjoys her job so much to the point where she wishes that the children’s handsome uncle could see how well she is doing. Later on, she starts noticing a form of a strange man at some distance and wondered if this family possessed some secrets that she did not know of. She sees the same face again and tells this to Mrs. Grose about it. She learns that it is Peter Quint who she saw, who is an ex-servant who has been dead for about a year. She then see another apparition in the form of a lady. She learns from Mrs. Grose that the lady is the former governess, Miss Jessel. She finds out that both Peter Quint and Miss Jessel had been intimate with each other and they been too familiar with the children. After seeing the strange figures over and over again, she believes that they are returning to see the children. The governess also wonders if the children could see them and are aware of their presence. She also notices that in the middle of the night, Miles is out walking on the lawn to prove that he is bad. Flora also often gets up in the night to look out the window.

After reading the first half of the story, I was very confused on how it started. I forgot that the story started with Douglas telling the story which later transitioned to the unnamed narrator telling the story. The governess accepts the job not only because the previous governess of the two children died but also because their uncle was quite handsome. When the uncle hired the governess, he gave her implicit instructions that she was to cope with any problem and never bother him.

After watching and analyzing the movie, “The Innocents”, I fell in love of the intro music and believed that is was the perfect application to describe the story. It had that dark and eeriness vibe to it which grabs the audience attention. I found it funny how it was so obvious that the governess had a thing for the uncle during the meeting between those two. She even overlooked his statement “I have no room for them neither mentally nor emotionally, does that seem quite heartless?” and didn’t consider his distaste for children as she shrugged it off, while too curious about the bachelor and not the job itself. The camera works does a good job on creating the suspense of the movie as it constantly moves back and forth, building up the eeriness and suspense especially when the governess learns that Peter Quint is dead as the camera moves to the children playing, implying that the children are not as innocent as they seem. They have more of a devious look on their face. After watching the movie, the movie was not completely like how I imagined it when I read the book but I do believe that it did a good job capturing the important aspects of the story, drawing the audience’s attention and interest.

3/12: “The Eyes” by Edith Wharton

“The Eyes” by Edith Wharton is a tale that employs the framework of a ghost story to dramatize an internal experience. It warns the readers against the personal consequences of denying are one’s self. The protagonist, Andrew Culwin, has never become part of life or allowed an involvement with another human being to threaten his egotism. He is a wealthy, middle-aged “confirmed bachelor”. After the meal at a dinner party, he joins the other attendees in relating his experience with ghosts. He had two experiences, both with a pair of old eyes that state of him from the foot of his bed and deny him sleep. The first thing occurs during his informal engagement to a young female cousin. The second occurs years later, after he guiltily prolongs his association with an aspiring writer. The author develops the questions of the ghost’s identity and the connection between the haunting in the reader’s mind. Once it is understood what is going on, it says more about the character’s mindset than anything else in the story. He finally appears to realize, after so many years, the truth about the haunting and the truth about himself. It turned out that the eyes may not belong to separate ghosts but they were symbolizing his conscious since it only appeared during the time when he wasn’t doing something right.

There are several connections between Wharton’s story and the contemporary culture. We are always being watched due to advancement of technology. Everything is recorded wherever we go such as driving with those speed cameras out there or stories with those surveillance cameras. Everything is being tracked; our every move or action is taken note on by the technology and even the society. Along with that, we are constantly being judged. Anything we say will get out there and there is no privacy anywhere else that can be done peacefully. Instead of accepting individuality and uniqueness, society is quick to judge just like the eyes in the “The Eyes”. It is seemed that we are always being watched when we are doing something wrong rather than right. it follows us everywhere as if something is after us just like how Culwin thought the ghosts where trying to tell him something when really, it’s our subconsciousness the whole time that’s trying to warn us and keep us in check with ourselves.

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T.J. Eckleburg’s billboard from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The picture above is from “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald which is the representation of the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg that are always watching and so are the eyes of God. This similarly reflects the eyes that was watching Culwin in his ghost experiences.

3/9: “The Monster” by Stephen Crane (Part II)

Like any community, there are secrets that torture souls and change lives forever. “The Monster” by Stephen Crane, we see how a community’s true face is revealed and the people are turned into monsters. Based on a deeper understanding, many facts denies that Henry was a monster and details pointing to the townspeople showed that they were the one being monsters during the whole time. This story is an insightful portrayal of the negative consequences of mob mentality and small-town pettiness rooted in prejudice against people who is in a way different from the town.

Mob mentality describes how people are influenced by their surroundings to adopt certain behaviors and follow certain trends. In the story, we really only know the Trescott family and everyone else is just known through their place in a larger group. They are always referred to as the “townspeople” as a collective noun. Rumors spread about the Trescott and Henry and even when they confront them, they do it in a group. The children including Jimmie, who was once Henry’s friend, also gang up on Henry. Just because a certain group feels a certain way about something, the rest will follow them like Jimmie did. He turns his back on the man that saved his life and adopts the mentality of the townspeople.

The title of the story itself has multiple meanings. It refers to Henry Johnson who had a monstrous appearance after he risked his life to save Dr. Trescott’s son from certain death. It also refers to the town seeing Dr. Trescott as a monster for not letting Henry die. In reality, neither Henry nor Dr. Trescott is a monster from a moral point f view, since Henry saves Dr. Trescott’s son and Dr. Trescott saves Henry. We learn that the worst monsters are not the ugly ones but the morally prejudiced ones, such as Jake Winter and Judge Hagenthorpe. Crane aimed to show that the townspeople were cruel to the man they all thought died doing a heroic deed.

The idea of mob mentality exists everywhere in our society today. When I think of mob mentality, I think of high school, especially from the movie “Mean Girls” because it is a perfect example of contemporary mob mentality. This movie shows the typical stereotype of cliques such as the nerds, the jocks, the Goths, and popular kids. Kids in high school easily fall into a group which they feel like they fit in and does everything in that group that they do. They will dress like them, talk like them, and act like them. Instead of having their own individual identity, they would stay within their group and have a collective opinion together like the townspeople did towards the Trescott and Henry. This is an example of bullying and because of this, it creates a monster inside them and shows the ugly side of them. When we are not ourselves, we turn ourselves into monster by just following with others and not giving ourselves a unique identity.