Monday, January 23, 2006

Lovecraft's Elitism: J. T. O'Connor

Pausing to Ponder-Lovecraft on racial equality by J.T. O'Connor.

I notice that in some of the writing here, Lovecraft is often called a racist. He was, and he wasn't. During Lovecraft's lifetime, the race issue was very difficult. Less than a hundred years had elapsed since the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery in the South. Most whites just had no experience with minorities, except as slaves or servants. This applied not only to Blacks, but also to Hispanics and Asians as well, although not to the same extent. The main teaching among the so called "educated and forward looking" whites was that these minorities deserved a place, but not with whites. In other words, each race was expected to remain with itself and keep intermingling to a bare minimum, and then the intermingling was to be at the behest of the white. Not a very good attitude for today, but about the most advanced attitude at the time.

As for Lovecraft himself, he did not hate Blacks or any members of the other races. He was, however, dead set against any kind of mixing of the races, particularly through intermarriage. If you read carefully, he mentions the "mongrel hordes" several times in "The Horror at Red Hook". One of the main reasons he hated New York was that there were so many people who were of mixed marriages, even during the 1910's and 1920's. This was anathema to Lovecraft. To him, pure blood was of the utmost importance, unless, of course, you were Irish. Remember, Lovecraft nearly worshipped the British, and in several of his writings, actually said that he was sorry that we won the Revolutionary War. The British hated the Irish, so Lovecraft did as well.

Lovecraft's racial peeve, then, was not the races themselves, but the interbreeding. In several of his letters, he talks about Blacks that he found interesting to talk with and to know. He also mentions at least one Asian that I recall. They were "purebred" and therefore Lovecraft felt that he could interact with them. Any mixing of the races, however, was repugnant to him. Recall how he describes the Innsmouth people, as being a mixed breed from humans and Deep Ones. He felt that any mixed breeding was as disgusting as these mixed humans.

Lovecraft, for all of his wonderful imagination, was still a product of his times, and to try to impose our attitudes on him is useless. All people are of their time, and all have at least a trace of the prejudices of their times. To expect anything else is to expect too much.

(c) 2006 by J.T. O'Connor

My thanks to J. T.

Don't forget to check out his newest book with James Layne! The Coming of T'loal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

not an admirable trait but definately a reasonable explanation, very interesting.



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