Short Story #374: The Tomb by H. P. Lovecraft
Title: The Tomb
Author: H. P. Lovecraft
Summary:The narrator, Jervas begins by explaining that he knows the reader is not likely to believe him since he has been confined to a room in what appears to be an asylum, but he goes forward with his tale regardless. He explains that he grew up on the grounds of an ancient house that was owned by the Hydes who had largely died out, though his family had a loose connection and the house had been burnt to the ground years ago in a fire caused by a thunderstorm. He always enjoyed exploring the words on their property and eventually stumbled upon a vault of tombs that was all but forgotten and covered in woodlands. Throughout his youth, he spends much time here staring at the door with hopes of gaining entrance. He is intrigued by the place and hints that much in the woods spoke to him in curious ways. One evening when he visits the vault, he seems to be hypnotized by the sound and the sight of it and through this experience, goes to his house and searches some old chest to find the key to the padlock. He now enters the vault and begins to explore. He continues to enter the vault and meditate upon the nature of the vault. His experiences cause him to act strangely and eventually, his family has him followed. When he exits the vault one day, he sees the man who is spying on him. The man reports to the father that Jervas goes to the vault, sits outside, and stares at it for hours. Jervas believes that the vault is protecting him. At a later time, he visits the tomb as it appears to be close to a storm. He goes to the tomb but it is not the tomb he remembers. Instead of being half-buried, itt is above ground and well-cared for. Hereto, he comes across the burnt wreckage of the ancient estate to find that it is restored and there is a party going on. He joins in the festivities but then lightning strikes, burning the building and many in it to the ground. Believing that he is dying, he comes to in the arms of two men--his father and the spy. He is brought to the asylum for care after his father tries to assure him that Jervas has never been in the vault and that it is still sealed. Jervas explains that later on, one of his faithful servants did break into the vault and found a tomb labeled Jervas Hyde.
ReflectionThe story had a good momentum to it. Lovecraft slowly gives away details throughout the story, which helps the reader get a sense of where he is going but one is never quite sure. This of course is because the narrator is supremely unreliable admitting in the opening sentences that he is in an asylum. This is reinforced throughout the story when the narrator makes reference to things that he experiences that he knows are not real and therefore, won't mention them. This attempt at sounding sane only amplifies our sense of his tenuous grasp of reality. I will admit that I had hoped that somehow Lovecraft would connect this family of Hydes with Edward Hyde but I knew that to be a bit too far-fetched.
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Source: I read this version of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too). However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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