“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”. With these words Howard Philips Lovecraft begins “The Supernatural Horror in Literature”. I contend that the importance Lovecraft attaches to the unknown in this critical essay on horror fiction – or weird fiction, as Lovecraft termed it – is reflected in his own works, as well.
My thesis will show that the unknown actually forms the core of a narrative technique which we can identify in most of Lovecraft’s works. Through close readings of three of his most famous texts, “The Call of Cthulhu”, “The Shadow over Innsmouth” and “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, the thesis analyzes the central role that unknowns play in them. In particular, I will show how unknowns are created, maintained and resolved in the course of the narrative. The analyses will also show how these unknowns affect the narrative flow and how the reader is affected by their presence.
Ultimately, the aim of this thesis is the description of a narrative technique or model which revolves around the unknown and which is commonly found in Lovecraft’s texts.