Kenneth Hite (princeofcairo) wrote,

[Tour de Lovecraft] The Festival

This story always puts me in mind of eels, who migrate, transform, and die when it's time. Like the eel, our narrator feels an "ancestral call" to gather at a specific spot, in this case a vast cavern underneath Kingsport. (Which is itself a kind of architectural Sargasso, but that's pushing the metaphor.) Once there, he will undergo a metamorphosis that will change him forever and be unable to return to his normal life. Of course, this being a Lovecraft story, he panics instead and flings himself into the underground river (talk about your potent tropes -- this one goes back to before Sinbad), where he washes up back in the "normal world." (Here, again, the connection with the apocalyptic "Dagon" and its unreliable narrator.)

He is the eel who woke up and saw himself trapped in his ancestry, trapped in an immense pattern he didn't create, and one that will easily survive his insignificant defection from it. In my reading, "The Festival" is Lovecraft's cosmic fatalism in miniature: all humanity is trapped in the patterns of entropy, evolution, and geology, to be destroyed by sudden unknowable catastrophe or erased in slow grinding erosion. The human who sees this clearly -- the eel who wakes up -- can't change it. The act of awakening, meanwhile, separates him from the rest of society.

****

Although I have to say that the Miskatonic University Library's policy of letting inmates at local insane asylums study the Necronomicon is probably not helping matters.

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It's also interesting that in "The Festival," Lovecraft locates the center of the cosmic evil beneath Kingsport, which he based on memories of a 1922 visit to the beautifully preserved colonial town of Marblehead, Mass., which he described as "the most powerful single emotional climax experienced during my nearly forty years of existence... That was the high tide of my life." Somehow, for Lovecraft, the act of perceiving his utopia simultaneously undermined it, perhaps by awakening his cosmic perception: as he put it, the sight "identified me with the stupendous totality of all things..."

NEXT: "He"
Tags: tour de lovecraft
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