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Science and Mathematics in H.P. Lovecraft's Stories

Science and Mathematics in H.P. Lovecraft’s Stories


The following research examines the stories of the late American author Howards Philips Lovecraft that gained retrospective prominence through his influential works of horror fiction. Most notably was H.P. Lovecraft enduring Cthulhu Mythos that initiated the genre of cosmic horror. The author’s stories were motivated by modern concepts, happenings, and famous people in science and mathematics. (Anderson 10). The research paper designates the author’s personal relationship to science and math and the events he experienced in the course of writing those stories. Some of the data has been extracted from such stories as At the Mountains of Madness, Cthulhu, “The Color out Of Space,” and “Facts Regarding the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family.”

Events that Influenced H.P. Lovecraft’s Stories

Lovecraft’s first power to endeavor into the world of story writing was his grandfather who was a wealthy entrepreneur and relished gothic horror storytelling. The grandfather, therefore, became an early inspiration which saw Lovecraft start creating simple horror tales at the age of eight.

Lovecraft’s most significant fictional influence was Poe, who possessed a British writing style due his fondness of British literature. Poe influenced Lovecraft into making unique, singular fantasy words and to integrate archaisms in his writings.

Lovecraft got influenced by Machen as well. Machen cautiously made tales regarding ancient evil survival into modern times in an otherwise pure world. Machen’s beliefs in concealed mysteries that lay behind truth also influenced Lovecraft a great deal.

In his early life, Lovecraft is alleged to have suffered from night horrors that represent a form of parasomnia. The author is said to have been assaulted at night by horrific night devil-like creatures without faces. Lovecraft’s later work is thought to have been directly motivated by these terrors.

A notable occurrence that influenced Lovecraft to venture to stories was when he sent a mail to a pulp magazine. Lovecraft protested about the dullness of love stories in the journal by writer Jackson. The following discussion in the magazine’s letters columns enticed the president of the United Amateur Press Association, who requested Lovecraft to join the organization.

Some of his life happenings motivated particular Lovecraft’s stories in his life. After moving to Red Hook, the writer was robbed and left with only the clothes he was wearing. The event led him to publish “The Horror at Red Hook.” Misfortunes fed Lovecraft’s central inspiration as a writer. Lovecraft termed his going to New York a mistake where contrary to poignant surprise and encouragement that he expected, he instead found only a sense of horror and oppression. The fear threatens to master, paralyze, and overwhelm him. The events made him write the outline for “The Call of Cthulhu,” which described the subject of the insignificance of all mortality.

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The Boer, Indian, and World War I may have had an effect on Lovecraft’s worldview as evident in the “Roaring Twenties”. Besides, England’s gradual loss of fame combined with seeing non-Western European settlers in New York City may have influenced Lovecraft’s notions.

Critics claim that Lovecraft’s disrespect of the world around him inclined his central theme of forbidden knowledge in many of his works. This proclamation is because most of Lovecraft’s characters get driven by the inquisitiveness or scientific endeavor and, on many occasions, the knowledge they disclose is destroying them in the process. The lack caused Lovecraft to search privately for awareness and motivation.

Modern Ideas that Influenced Lovecraft

Lovecraft’s anti-modern worldview was facilitated by Oswald Spengler’s pessimistic thesis of the modern West decadence. The effect is Spenglerian imagery of cyclical decay present in At the Mountains of Madness. (Cooke 24).

Decay represents an alleged deterioration in ethics, principles, dignity, religious faith or skill at leading among elite members of a large social structure. Lovecraft supposed that the mechanical and industrial age is one of open decadence. The writer was influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher of decadence. Lovecraft’s dealt with civilization notion besieged against dark, primitive barbarism. The struggle becomes apparent in his stories where many of his characters are cultured, highly-educated men, who get degraded gradually by some vague and dreaded influence.

“Facts Regarding the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” is a short story in the horror fiction genre. The subjects of the story include tainted ancestry, understanding that it is wise to remain ignorant, and an actuality that mortal understanding finds impossible. The influence to write this story is the hereditary propensity for physical and mental relapse as reflected in the plot of the story. The story is also influenced by the racial pollution of his time. (Anderson 15). Physical and mental deprivation proven in the story reflects Lovecraft’s family history, predominantly the demise of his father due to what he suspected to be a syphilitic ailment. In the short story, Lovecraft seeks to illustrate the notion that descendants in a bloodline can never escape the criminality stains committed by their ancestors where the crimes are terrible enough. Despite the space between the act and time, the revenant past may always disturb them.

Racism also influenced Lovecraft’s thoughts though his remarks do not usually auger well with the modern leader as it becomes founded against the various non-Anglo-Saxon races and cultures within his work. This racial preference makes Lovecraft’s worldview into a universal classism or elitism concerning any fellow human being of self-ennobled culture as of a superior race. Lovecraft is influenced to an active color line for the tenacity of maintaining race and culture. Therefore, it becomes clear that Lovecraft’s racial approach is directly affected by the time, a likeness of the New England civilization he developed. Lovecraft held English people and those of their lineage as above others. (Lovecraft 8).

Barbarism in the modern society also influenced Lovecraft in writing his stories. Polaris represents the scope where barbarism comes as an external threat with a civilized threat ruined in war. Occasionally, a remote size of humankind associates itself to dissipation and atavism of its accord seen in “The Lurking Fear.” However, such stories include a civilized culture that is slowly destabilized by a malicious underclass influenced by heartless powers.

The increased dependence upon science in the onset of the 20th century led to Lovecraft’s describing this fact as a probable horror of a growing gap of man’s knowledge of the world as. This scheme gets assessed in “The Color out Of Space,” where the inability of science to understand a contaminated meteorite leads to horror. (Murray 13).

Influence of Science and Mathematics

Lovecraft’s lifetime (1890-1937) was characterized by many findings in the field of science and mathematics. Lovecraft was a devoted adherent of these happenings by reading thoroughly scientific papers and articles. In following up on the events, Lovecraft was inclined by notable figures like Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and several others, who made unearthing’s in the geology of the Antarctic. Lovecraft also became prejudiced by mathematicians who revealed the non-Euclidian geometry axioms.

Einstein’s theory of relativity introduces various ideas, among which is that the measurement of different amounts is about the velocity of observers. In the “Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His family,” Lovecraft makes a reference to the relatively new idea of evolution theory. He notes the already oppressive nature of science with its shocking revelations that it could be the exterminator of humankind. The threat was influenced by science’s unimaginable horrors. (Lovecraft 14). Lovecraft points to Einstein’s theory of relativity as accountable for throwing the world into turmoil and making the universe a joke. Lovecraft’s view is that technological comfort risks the failure of science. Lovecraft imagines possible alternative outcomes. The theory influences Lovecraft in writing “The Call of Cthulhu” where characters meet strange architecture (Lovecraft 32). In addition, Lovecraft is sensitive from external impacts and his xenophobic nature struggles with human race evolution from some other, much simpler specie.

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Non-Euclidean geometry presents the mathematical language and background of Einstein’s general theory of relativity and influences Lovecraft in discovering alien archeology.

Celestial indifferentism influenced some ideas of Lovecraft’s works, in which communities are ruled by distinct pantheons of divinities. Lovecraft expands on the natural worldview suggesting conflicting mythic human origins to those found in the creation stories. At the Mountains of Madness suggests that humankind was created as a slave race by the Old Ones and that the earth evolved from botched scientific experiments of the Old ones (Cooke 30).The story shows Lovecraft’s support of the scientific concepts citing scientific and rationalistic proof to support their non-faith. The short story also gets inspiration from Antarctica exploration events.

Personal Relationship to Science and Mathematics

Despite leaving school without graduating, Lovecraft found mathematics predominantly severe. Joshi suggests that in the biography of Lovecraft, the primary cause for his breakdown was his difficulty in higher mathematics, a subject crucial to becoming a specialized astronomer. However, he had developed a daunting knowledge of his preferred subjects that included history, linguistics, chemistry, and astronomy (Murray 17).

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Lovecraft’s scientific improvement in biology, astronomy, geology, and physics influenced his opinion of the human race as unimportant, powerless, and doomed in a materialistic and mechanistic universe. The materialistic views led him to adopt his philosophical views, later known as cosmism, through fiction as seen in the today’s Cthulhu Mythos.

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When Lovecraft began writing those stories, he regarded commercial success progressively elude him in this latter period, which is a factor that saw him survive in gradually straightened situations in his last years. Lovecraft’s works involved many themes, among which are forbidden knowledge, non-human influences on humanity, as in “The Call of Cthulhu,” and congenital guilt like in “Facts Regarding the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family.” Besides, themes like fate get explained in the “Color out Of Space.”