The Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft

The Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft
Renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud once wrote that terror is the reaction of an immediate threat which endangers the individual, a threat that may properly be disposed of with appropriate action:

"The terror can be dissipated by a round of buckshot. Horror, on the other hand, is fascinated dread in the presence of an immaterial cause. The frights of nightmares cannot be dissipated by a round of buckshot; to flee them is to run into them at every turn" (Hartwell 4).

H.P. Lovecraft, considered by many to be the father of modern day horror fiction, would have agreed with the famous physician. Horror is far from always being about the literal ghosts, goblins and vampires that prey on their helpless victims. The writings of Lovecraft often reflect the horrors of the psyche, reminding the reader that the greatest and most terrifying evils lie dormant in the shadows of human consciousness. Many of Lovecraft’s tales follow the awakening of the primal human urge to consume, destroy, and wreak chaos on the self and on the external world. Try as one might, this dark and perverse nature cannot be escaped; the more one denies the “Hyde” within, the more heinous the acts will become once unleashed from the barriers of repression. Lovecraft’s short story "The Rats in the Walls" hauntingly addresses one man’s descent into madness as he regresses to this darker and inescapable, primitive self.

What truly haunts Delapore, the narrator of the short story? Is it an army of supernatural ghost rats, or is it something altogether different? At the end of the story, Delapore contmplates his own madness:

"When I speak of poor Norrys they accuse me of a hideous thing, but they must that I did not do it. They must know it was the rats; the slithering, scurrying rats whose scampering will never let me sleep; the daemon rats that race behind the padding in this room and beckon me down to greater horrors than I have ever known; the rats they can never hear, the rats in the walls."

Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls" is a tragic and twisted tale full of rich imagery and sinister undertones, and is recommended choice reading for horror literature fans. Share your thoughts about the story on the horror literature site with others through the horror literature forum and ask yourself the question, "Where are MY rats?"

(Hartwell, David G. “The Evolution of Horror Fiction.” The Dark Descent.
New York: Tor, 1987. 3-4.)

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