‘Lost and Found in the Cosmos’

These stories [by Lovecraft] end in suicide, madness, or, as in The Shadow Over Innsmouth, a disturbing acquiescence. Given the Darwinian undertones, what else could one do but acquiesce? You are what you are, and that’s the end of it.

But for Lewis, there is reason for hope. Reality comes with an “upper story,” and while we are embodied souls, we are souls above all. It is to our souls that Lewis makes his appeal. He wants us to look in horror upon our inner monster, but unlike Lovecraft, he does not want us to die. He wants us to turn to Aslan and live.

At Touchstone, C. R. Wiley analyzes the different ways in which two near-contemporaries, H. P. Lovecraft and C. S. Lewis, approached the mysteries of the universe in their imaginative fiction. This article precisely mirrors my own opinions, and is therefore a marvel of reason.

(Tip: My friend Kit Johnson.)

5 thoughts on “‘Lost and Found in the Cosmos’”

  1. One thing the article doesn’t touch on really but got me thinking about was how some of Lovecraft’s stories are in some way about Evolution, especially those stories dealing with miscegenation, or sexual relations between the races (of which he and R. E. Howard were frightened by).

    In these stories, such as Sh the protagonist discovers he has some “subhuman” ancestry. If you think about it, that is what Evolution claims; that we are descended from animals (i.e., the subhuman). The protagonist, when confronted with this evolutionary fact, is either driven mad or gives into it.

    Lewis, interestingly, seems to have written a reply to that sort of thinking in, that evolution makes us mere animals, not by denying evolution but by making a different point altogether with the star scene in Dawn Treader when Eustace meets a star* who looks like a person.

    “In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”
    Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.”

    *I’m going off the description from the documentary NARNIA CODE. It’s been a looooooong time since I read Dawn Treader.

    1. Correction:
      “In these stories, such as Sh”

      “In these stories, such as Shadow over Innsmouth (which I’ve read)”

      I left out a bit unfinished. Apologies.

  2. I wonder how many of Lovecraft’s stories actually end with the protagonist being insane. The story may start with him saying that people think he is insane, but the reader always gets the point, that the bizarre things he described really happened. There’s never any doubt in the reader’s mind; the reader just plays along with Lovecraft. He never even attempted to write a story at the end of which the reader would say: Yup, this narrator is insane — or would even seriously consider the possibility. The closest he came, as far as anything I remember right off, is the narrator in “The Rats in the Walls.” Probably the narrator imagines that he hears rats in the walls of the place where he’s confined, but that doesn’t make the reader think that the main events of the story were hallucinatory.

  3. “Arthur Jermyn” seems to have been inspired by the Fourth Voyage of Gulliver, in which Gulliver’s crowning indignity, after all he’s been through, is to have to admit that he too is a Yahoo.

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