Friday, April 16, 2010

The Tomb by H.P. Lovecraft

The Tomb
by H.P. Lovecraft

This story is another rare instance where a narrator in a Lovecraft story actually has a name. Unfortunately (for him) that name just so happens to be the unlikely moniker Jervas Dudley. Jervas is an odd young chap, and perhaps more than a little off his rocker--he admits right off the bat that he is currently a patient in a mental institution. But is he truly crazy, or is the truth of his story just too crazy for the rest of the world?

It seems that many years ago, there was a particular house in his neighborhood that went up in flames, killing the last surviving members of the Hyde family. All of them were entombed in a private crypt built into the recesses of a hillside.  Having grown up in the area and having heard many stories about this family's untimely demise, young Jervas develops a perhaps unhealthy fascination with the crypt, and longs to visit the inside. But the door is solid and sealed tight with a plethora of chains and padlocks. For quite some time, he is content to lay at its entrance and daydream...until the day he finds the key.

Finally admitted entrance, Jervas begins to bear witness to and be the subject of many strange events, culminating in one big daddy of a spectral shift.

While "The Tomb" is a superbly written story and has some great, creepy quotes contained within, the actual story itself is only mediocre. There seems to be very little of a threat here, and the narrator refuses to tell us so much that it feels as if all the good parts are being left out. The ending seemed a bit of a cop-out, too, although the whole ambiguous 'was it real or was it a dream' theme was probably not as played out then as it is now.

Interestingly, the climax of this story has a lot of similarities with The Shining, so fans of that great work may want to give this one a read for comparison's sake.


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