Intertwining Stories: The Underlying Problems of Fear

By , Dallas, TX

Through their story lines of frightening non-human creatures, Lovecraft’s weird fiction, The Dunwich Horror, gives the impression of influencing Faulkner’s, Black Music.  Upon my reading, both authors attempt to create something foreign and unfamiliar, yet also native and familiar.  In both stories, the two main characters, Wilfred Midgleston and Wilbur Whatley appear to resemble the native creatures of the earth, but as the story progresses both characters transform into unearthly, foreign and unfamiliar creatures.  Addison Shierry’s essay brings into question their resemblances, and through her essay she brings to bear that many of the elements hint to an underlying meaning focused on by both authors.  Here, I would like to push my reading where the authors attempt to prove through weird fiction that inside all human beings, there exists something native, yet foreign.  This thing that Shierry refers to as “It” reveals that inside all humans there exists an earthly being and a being from another world.  Through their weird fiction, they demonstrate that while this paradox may seem unattainable, it constantly looms over the human being.  The authors’ usage of fear inducing syntax causes fear to loom over the audience, and forms a belief in the reader that any foreign idea has the potential to become native and actual.  Throughout both stories, many similarities occur in the scenes and characters, which bridge the stories and convey the underlying uncertainty in both shorts to the reader, while attempting to evoke fear through the possibility of impossibility.


This possibility of impossibility leads my thoughts toward Addison Shierry’s Essay, “Black Music” and “Carcassone”: Faulkner’s Journey from the Old Weird to the New, where the similarities between Black Music and The Dunwich Horror become apparent.  Here, the two main characters share strikingly similar names, Wilfred and Wilbur.  The characters not only parallel in name, but also in physical appearance.  In The Dunwich Horror, Lovecraft describes Wilbur as a “goatish-looking infant” directly after his birth.  Similarly, Faulkner describes the faun as half goat and half man.  Here, both authors describe the main characters as a combination of animal and human.  This poses the problem of appearance versus reality, because while things may not make themselves known, there remains a possibility that they could exist.  These topics spark fear in humans because they remain a mystery and choose not to show themselves, like Wilbur’s foreign twin brother.  Upon reading Shierry’s essay, she refers to Carcassonne as the fearful “weird sibling” of Black Music, which implies a reference to Wilbur’s unearthly twin brother.  The unearthliness of Wilbur’s twin and the split of earthliness and unearthliness in Wilbur brings about the issue of a middle ground between the two.  Upon interpretation, a middle ground remains impossible because human beings refuse to acknowledge their existence upon the earth.  The human being refuses to accept this interpretation because she prefers not to resemble a monster.  This causes tension between the human being and the two short stories because she constantly denies the monster she truly is.  This denial establishes the problem of the internal and external self.


The two selves conflict regularly because they both deny the other’s existence.  This denial of existence resembles the denial of unearthly characteristics.  The relationship between the human being and her internal self illustrates the middle ground between Wilbur and his twin.  Through doing this, she acknowledges the unearthly characteristics living inside of her.  Unlike Wilbur, she appears completely human on the outside, while her unearthly characteristics exist invisibly on the inside like Wilbur’s twin.  Here, the human being resembles Wilbur, while she remains his twin.  Faulkner not only uses the main characters to show similarities, but also secondary characters to parallel each other.  In Black Music, Faulkner mentions a “New England fellow” who happens to own livestock that cause many people harm. Similarly, Old Whatley from The Dunwich Horror owns an animal, the twin, who causes much destruction to people and property.  Upon reading Shierry’s essay, I would like to share my interpretation of the “New England fellow” and Old Whatley where they signify people who practice magic in attempts to summon unearthly creatures.  Here, these two authors utilize the actuality of black magic to invoke fear in the reader, stemming from the stories’ elements of reality.  After Wilfred’s transformation into a “farn,” he unlocks a bull with a key that unlocks any lock.  Here, the bull resembles Wilbur’s twin brother due to his full power remaining locked.  Wilbur’s twin remains locked in a sense that he exists invisibly and Wilbur needs the help of the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire, to reach full potential.  However, Wilbur soon unleashes the twin’s power with the fictional text, the Necronomicon.  Likewise, the spells which unlock each non-human creature resemble the spells of a witch, creating fear since witches practice magic today.  Along with the frightening similarities in character, many discoveries lead to the scenery paralleling in each story.


Upon observing the settings and noises that occur in each story, many significant similarities arise.  For example, The Dunwich Horror and Black Music both occur in or near Massachusetts at a location “where never a many lived.”  The description of both places resembles a ghost town where unordinary events occur and extraordinary people live.  The summoning of the non-human creatures occurs on an area of raised land, either a hill or mountain.  Various characters in history refuse to go up to the hills in both stories because “things happen on it,” and these “things” frighten people and keep them away.  The hill tops represent the unknown truth for humans, often scaring them.  Faulkner not only uses location to create fear, but also sounds by describing the sound of the wind in Black Music as an “organ…Not tame; that’s how it sounded.” This sentence refers to the whippoorwills in The Dunwich Horror whose noises signify the death of a human.  The connection between the whippoorwills implies the death of Wilfred Midgleston, and represent his birth into the world of the unknown in Black Music.  Also, Shierry points out that during Wilfred’s transformation a “wild, sporadic, rhythm-less type of music” occurs, implicitly pointing to the chants of Old Whatley and Wilbur that they perform to summon the non-human creature.  This noise symbolizes Wilfred’s transformation from a human to an unearthly creature.  Unlike Wilbur, Wilfred turns into an foreign creature and soon returns to human form.  In attempting to understand the story, the change from native to foreign and back to native signifies Wilfred uncovering the actualities lying within, which causes fear in the human being.  Through the similarities that occur in both stories, the question arises, do these similarities evoke a larger problem?


This problem remains one of the essential problems of the human being, but this time forms in an unpredictable way.  The fear of existence refers to the human being discovering that she exists and has no existence simultaneously.  Upon my readings, the question becomes, what else exists in a human being and when will she find it?  The short stories of Faulkner and Lovecraft bring about strange questions and end without answers.  After reading their short stories, questions develop of how they imagine such things without seeing them before, and the object of imagination now becomes a large issue.  Soon, a realization occurs that as we get older our fears begin to go away, however, the fear of the unknown thrives.  As Faulkner and Lovecraft demonstrate, the power of imagination holds sway over how the human being sees her own world, and to think that a human holds the power to conjure up a mythical creature continuously frightens.  The question then arises, how does the human know of its new creation?  The answer remains that the human must see some thing to initiate this creativity.  Faulkner and Lovecraft’s idea of an unearthly creature living within the human being brings about a questioning of identity.  Similarly, she wonders if her internal self holds the unearthly being or if her internal self is the unearthly being.  I would like to see this argument forming both ways because the internal self exists invisibly, causing the human being to fear its possibility and actuality.  However, it could also inhabit the native being in the sense that we remain aware of its existence our entire life.  Likewise, the external self typically appears native while living on the earth and classifies itself as the human, but the human herself never truly sees this external self and cannot be sure of its existence.  With this uncertainty, another issue arises that involves Wilfred and Wilbur.  We come to the realization, that inside all human beings exists a foreign yet native being that has the potential to make itself present on the face of the earth at any moment, but disdains.  Faulkner and Lovecraft pose the question of unearthly existence which remains without an answer, causing more fear to arise.
Through understanding the fear in Black Music and The Dunwich Horror, the human being fears herself because she realizes that she is the unknown.  The human comes to this realization when she discovers that she will never see her inner or outer self, making her the unknown.  While the human being knows she exists on earth, she has no physical evidence telling her she exists.  Here, the human being remains both foreign and native, and never realizes that she has foreign qualities.  This fear creates many problems throughout her life because she remains uncertain of her true form, and instead of searching for it she hides from it.  Much like the people in The Dunwich Horror and Black Music, the human being shies away from the unknown truth.  Faulkner and Lovecraft point out that humans tend to hide from the unknown because their minds remain closed off instead of open.  Likewise, the human being becomes incapable of seeing not only their true form, but also the world surrounding them.  The human being constantly finds herself facing the unknowns and hidden truths, inevitably leading to fear.  This fear of the unknown stems from the idea that the human considers herself omniscient and anything that challenges this idea brings her discomfort.  Upon reading, Lovecraft and Faulkner demonstrate that discomfort causes discovery within the human being by uncovering more of the unknown and leading her closer to opening her mind.  The two short stories, while classified as fiction, consist of actual elements and situations, which produce fear inside the human being’s mind.  This fear would not occur, if the weird fiction of Faulkner and Lovecraft did not have the possibility of coming true; however, they do, and such fear and angst forever looms over the human being.






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