When one questions the significance of reality as understood by human beings, one would realize that it is the reality imposed on ones understanding by either religion or science, or a combination of both. However, many do probe their own subjective realities and understand their existence and they world they live in, in their unique ways. H.P. Lovecraft tried to explore the reality through horror. Horror as one understand could be the single most emotion that renders the being to a state of powerlessness. If one were to discuss human existence and the inherent ability to make sense of things, one could say, horror must not exist.
However, there is always the prospect of the unknown, and man has been troubled by questions about his own existence, what happens after death and why he is here in the first place. Such questions usually are answered by the religion, which people have been accepting blindly in spite of reason provided by science. Unfortunately, noble as it is, science does not answer most of the questions that run through one’s mind.
In fact, the more humans have tried to probe reality, the more enigmatic and mysterious reality turns out to be. Those who have understood the futility of religion and science have sought refuge in Existentialism and other continental philosophies, while accepting the importance of science as a tool to grope through the darkness. Science of course is a necessary tool, which could allegorically be compared with a dim candle that a person walking through the forest uses to make his way through. H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction provides an alternate view into what is understood as the reality. In most of his stories and fiction, reality is seen as something that is terribly and filled with sheer horror. Anyone who tries to probe this horrifying reality usually meets with a disastrous end or goes insane.
Lovecraft also suggests the bleak and depressive reality one is stuck in, and how one goes through angst when faced with darkness. He further refutes the idea of horror being dark, and suggests horror and terrifying reality to be so bright that one can’t stare at it. Instead, one has to seek refuge somewhere darker and less oppressive. Thus, in order to escape a reality that is so scary, humans seek refuge in ignorance, religion and science. If one were to consider Lovecraft’s stories, The Shunned House serves as one of the examples of what he felt of this oppressive and terrifying reality.
The story centers on a gloomy house that looks quite unimportant and insignificant. Apart from the fact that there were a number of unexplained early deaths due to illness and insanity, there wasn’t anything extraordinary about the house. However, the protagonist smells something nasty, and decides to explore further with his uncle. The seemingly gloomy but insignificant house holds terrifying secrets that open a completely new world. In the process of looking for answers, the uncle falls victim to the forces of the grim reality and turns into a monster, to be ultimately killed by the protagonist. The house thus, is an allegorical reference to the reality that Lovecrafts sees around him.
For H.P. Lovecraft, the world one lives in and the reality one lives amidst are hidden like the Shunned House. This shunned reality has been carefully protected from one’s conscious to save them from horror, destruction and insanity. The reality hence is too terrifying and thus has to be shunned in order to maintain sanity and physical & mental integrity. Thus, the desperate attempt to find an answer or solution to everything that one does not understand or to everything that seems mysterious is an attempt to rationalize and hide oneself from the horrors of reality.