Howard Phillips Lovecraft - The Thing on the Doorstep (195.0 Kb)
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"The Thing on the Doorstep" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft, part of the so-called Cthulhu Mythos universe of horror fiction. It was written in August 1933, and first published in the January 1937 issue of Weird Tales.Two novels suggested as inspirations for "The Thing on the Doorstep" are Barry Pain's An Exchange of Souls (1911), about a scientist's invention that allows him to switch personalities with his wife, and H. B. Drake's The Remedy (1925 published in the U.S. as The Shadowy Thing), in which a chara... More >>>
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"The Thing on the Doorstep" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft, part of the so-called Cthulhu Mythos universe of horror fiction. It was written in August 1933, and first published in the January 1937 issue of Weird Tales.
Two novels suggested as inspirations for "The Thing on the Doorstep" are Barry Pain's An Exchange of Souls (1911), about a scientist's invention that allows him to switch personalities with his wife, and H. B. Drake's The Remedy (1925 published in the U.S. as The Shadowy Thing), in which a character with the power of mind-transference comes back from the dead by possessing the body of an injured friend.
The story is divided into 7 chapters:
I. Daniel Upton, the story's narrator, begins by telling that he has killed his best friend, Edward Derby, and that he hopes his account will prove that he is not a murderer. He begins by describing Derby's life and career.
II. He then tells of Asenath Waite, and how Derby and she wed.
III. A few years later, people start to notice a change in Derby's abilities. He confides in Upton, telling him strange stories of Asenath, and how he believes her father, Ephraim Waite, may not actually be dead.
IV. Upton is called to pick up Derby who has been found in Maine, rambling incoherently. On the trip back, Derby tells of Asenath using his body, and suggests that it is in fact Ephraim who resides in the body of Asenath. Before finishing, he has a small seizure and rapidly changes personality, asking Upton to ignore what he might have just said.
V. A few months later, Derby shows up at Upton's door and says he's found a way to keep Asenath away to stop her using his body. Derby finishes renovations on his old family house, yet seems strangely reluctant to leave Asenath's old place.
VI.Upton receives a visit from Derby, who begins raving about his wife and father-in-law. Upton gets him to sleep, but has Derby taken to Arkham Sanitarium. The Sanitarium calls Upton to tell him that Derby's "reason has suddenly come back", though upon visiting, Upton can see it is not the true personality of Edward Derby.
VII.Upton is roused from his sleep by a knocking at his door, using "Edward's old signal of three-and-two strokes". Upton believes it may be Derby, but opens his door to find a "dwarfed, humped" messenger, carrying a letter from Derby. The letter explains that Derby had in fact killed Asenath and buried her body in their cellar. Despite this, Asenath had managed to take control of his body while he was in the Sanitarium, meaning that "the thing on the doorstep" was actually Derby inhabiting Asenath's liquefying corpse. The note implores Upton to go to the sanitarium to kill Derby, who has been permanently possessed by Asenath-Ephraim's soul. Upton does so, thus hopefully banishing Asenath-Ephraim's soul to the hereafter, though he reveals that he is afraid of having his soul transferred as well.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 - March 15, 1937) was an American author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, known then simply as weird fiction.
HP Lovecraft was one of the early exponents of horror fantasy, best known for the series of works known collectively as the Cthulhu Mythos. He peppered his books with references to an occult work called The Necronomicon, and, as his fame grew, he was besieged by readers asking where they could find a copy of it. But the truth was that Lovecraft had invented the book and its title. He wrote in a letter of 1937: 'The name Necronomicon (necros, corpse; nomos, law; eikon, image = An Image of the Law of the Dead) occurred to me in the course of a dream, although the etymology is perfectly sound.' So the title came before everything else, and substituted, perfectly reasonably, for the work itself.
This is a game that many writers have played, and the history of literature is full of references to books that don't, in fact, exist. Margaret Atwood, AS Byatt, Dorothy L Sayers, Frank Herbert, Martin Amis, Arthur Conan Doyle and many, many others have all joined in. Some of my favourite fictional titles are from Kurt Vonnegut, who, as Kilgore Trout, writes non-existent works such as The Barring-Gaffner of Bagnialto, or This Year's Masterpiece, which are usually accompanied by helpful plot summaries. Perhaps the most notorious fictional-book-inventors have been writers such as Umberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges; naturally enough, since their writing often draws attention to literature as itself an artefact.
With the Necronomicon there was a difference, however. Other writers began to treat it as if it really did exist, quoting from the nonexistent work and even composing large sections of it; several Necronomicons were in fact later published, by hoaxers including L. Sprague De Camp and Colin Wilson.
Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror, the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. Lovecraft has developed a cult following for his Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interconnected fiction featuring a pantheon of human-nullifying entities, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. His works were deeply pessimistic and cynical, challenging the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christian humanism. Lovecraft's protagonists usually achieve the mirror-opposite of traditional gnosis and mysticism by momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality.
Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his life, his reputation has grown over the decades, and he is now commonly regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century, who together with Edgar Allan Poe has exerted "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction". Stephen King has called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.