Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Dagon: Lovecraft's words

As I showed yesterday, I took Dagon and parsed it. This statistical evisceration of his story shows us a few things that make Lovecraft Lovecraftian. Of its 2231 words, there are 661 words that are used only once in Dagon! About 29.7%.

There is an underlying technical presence. Lovecraft was deeply scientific although sometimes that was a bit superficial. He was awed by quantum mechanics, but he could not do quantum mechanics. He thrilled to science, but unlike a Heinlein, de Camp, or Asimov he did not do science or engineering. Still we see not just astronomical terms but words such as 'anthropologist', 'ethnologist', 'hieroglyphics', and 'archaeologist's'. This gives it a flavor of very early scientifiction.

Part of what makes Lovecraft Lovecraftian is its subliminal effect. Somewhere in his early childhood the deep and dark made a great impact upon him. I suspect it was Grandma Rhoby's death and maybe seeing that yawning burial plot opened. In any event, you can't pick apart a Lovecraft story without seeing words like these (in Dagon): (moon, 8), (night,5), (beneath, 4), (black, 4), (down, 4), (bottom, 2), (chasm, 2), (dark, 2), (deep, deeps, 2), (depths, 1), (descent, 1), (fathomless, 1), (grotto, 1), (abyss, 1), (canyon,1), (inky,1), (valley,1), (stars,1). Yes, the story is about the sea, but read every story with a watchful eye and you'll see deepness and darkness as an integral part.

Lovecraft shows a strong architectural scheme. I can't name all the words that he uses, but here are a few that show his mental bearings on Euclidean and architectural viewpoints: plain, slope, surface, vast, ascend, ascent, floor, mound, rise, position.

Be especially watchful for the word "window" as it often conveys a pivotal moment in the plot, and a philosophical underpinning of Lovecraft's works.

In Dagon, he seemed to have a penchant for 'im/n' words: illumine, imaginary, imagination, imagine, imagined, immeasurable, immense, immensity, impression, impulse, indistinct, infested, inky, innumerable, inquiries, inscriptions, insist.

Nameless, dream, and octopi appear in this early work, too, laying the seeds for the Call of Cthulhu later – as well as many other Lovecraftian terrors.

Of course we see common Lovecraftian words: stupendous, enormous, gibbous, hideous, contemptuous, curious, delirious, monotonous, prodigious.

Finally, here are all the words that appear only once in Lovecraft's story.

able, absolute, abyss, act, adrift, again, against, ahead, aimlessly, air, altogether, American, amidst, amused, amusement, analyse, ancestor, anthropologist, anything, appreciable, aquatic, archaeologist's, are, arms, array, ascending, assured, astonished, attained, awake, awakened, Awestruck, back, background, badly, barren, bas, bear, became, bed, beginning, below, bestowed, billows, blazing, blue, boldly, books, born, bowed, broad, brooding, brought, bulging, bulk, Bulwer, came, canyon, captain, captors, captured, carcasses, celebrated, change, channel, chaos, characters, chilled, chiselled, churning, cliff, climb, climbed, closely, closer, cloudless, clutches, coastline, cold, come, competent, completely, completeness, conception, concerned, conscious, consideration, consisting, containing, contemptuous, continuous, contour, conventional, conventionalised, convey, core, cost, crawled, crawling, crest, crew, crude, cruelty, crustaceans, curious, Curiously, Cyclopean, Dagon, damnably, dare, daring, darkness, darted, Dazed, dead, deal, death, decaying, decided, declivity, decomposing, deem, deep, deeps, definitely, degenerate, degradation, delight, delirious, delirium, depict, depths, descendant, descent, describable, desert, despair, detail, details, detect, determined, deterred, detestable, difficulty, directions, discipline, discover, disporting, distinct, Do, does, door, Dore, doubt, drag, drawn, dreams, drifted, drop, due, dwell, ears, ease, eastern, easy, edge, eels, either, elevation, eminence, encamped, endurable, endure, energy, envy, equator, eras, ere, especially, espied, eternal, ethnologist, evening, evil, examined, excited, exhausted, expanse, experienced, explain, exposing, express, extended, extent, eyes, faces, fact, faint, faintest, fair, fairly, fairness, fantastically, fathomless, fear, features, fell, fellow, fever, few, filled, finally, find, Fish-God, fishing, five, flabby, floundering, flowed, following, food, footholds, forces, forged, forgetfulness, fourth, fowl, Francisco, frantic, freak, free, frequented, frightened, full, fully, gained, garret, gave, gazing, gentler, glare, glassy, gleamed, glimpse, glow, goal, God, gods, good, gradual, granite, graver, greater, Grotesque, grotesqueness, grotto, ground, grounded, grow, guided, habitable, half, hand, hands, happened, hastily, having, he, head, hear, heard, hearing, heavens, heaving, hellish, hemmed, hidden, hideously, hideousness, hieroglyphics, high, hill, him, himself, hold, homage, homogeneity, hope, hopeless, hopelessly, horrified, hospital, hours, how, however, human, Hun, idea, idols, if, illumine, imaginary, imagination, imagine, imagined, immeasurable, immense, immensity, impression, impulse, indistinct, infested, information, inky, innumerable, inquiries, inscriptions, insist, island, kept, killing, known, lain, landscape, lapping, larger, later, laughed, Ledges, legend, legitimate, length, liberal, life, light, likely, likenesses, lips, living, loathsome, longer, longitude, looked, lumbering, mad, maddening, magnitude, managed, mankind, mark, marsh, massive, measured, mental, mid, millions, mind, mire, modern, molluscs, monolithic, monotonous, monotony, monster, moods, morning, moved, mud, musing, nameless, nasty, nauseating, naval, navigator, Neanderthal, nearer, necessary, neither, new, newly, next, nightmares, obelisks, observed, obviously, octopi, oddly, odour, Often, opposite, oppressed, outcroppings, outline, over, overland, own, packet, pages, pandemonium, Paradise, parching, part, parts, passing, past, paying, peals, peculiar, peering, penetrated, Penniless, perceived, perceiving, perform, perished, perpendicular, perspiration, phantasm, Philistine, picked, Picking, pictorial, piece, Piltdown, pit, Plainly, pleasant, Poe, Polyphemus, portion, possible, preparatory, press, prey, primitive, prisoners, prize, prodigious, progressed, proportion, protruding, provisions, puny, pure, purposes, putrid, quality, queer, questions, raider, ran, rate, raving, rays, reach, reached, read, realise, reality, realized, realms, recall, recesses, recollections, reeking, reflecting, reflections, regarding, region, regions, relief, reliefs, remarked, remember, remembrance, reminiscences, remnants, reply, rescue, rescuers, revealed, rim, rock, rocks, rotting, San, sang, sat, Satan's, save, say, scaly, scant, scarcely, scenery, scenic, scientist's, scorching, scrambled, scrawled, scrutiny, sculptures, seafaring, search, seen, sensation, sensations, set, setting, shade, shadow, shadows, shaped, sharper, shockingly, shone, shores, short, should, shrine, shuddering, silence, silent, sing, singular, sinister, sink, slave, slavery, sleep, slid, slime, slippery, slopes, slumber, small, soaked, soared, solitude, somewhat, sort, sought, sounds, source, south, speak, spellbound, squalid, stars, started, steadily, steeply, steeps, stickiness, still, stillness, storm, street, stricken, stupendous, Stygian, subjects, submarine, sucked, suddenly, sufficiently, summit, sunk, sunset, supercargo, supply, supposed, surcease, surging, symbols, system, taken, talons, terror, theory, third, thither, thrill, thrown, thunder, tones, tonight, torture, toward, towering, trace, transformation, transient, travel, travelled, travelling, treated, tried, troubled, turned, unable, uncounted, undulations, unending, unfashioned, unfathomable, universal, unlike, unprecedented, unutterable, unwise, Urged, us, utters, vague, vaguely, vanished, vastness, vent, vessel, victim, view, visible, vision, visions, vivid, vividly, volcanic, waiting, walk, washed, watery, wavelets, waves, weakling, weary, weather, webbed, weirdly, went, westward, whale, whales, where, while, whitely, wide, wild, wildest, winding, within, wonder, work, workmanship, worship, worshipping, written, yards, yawned, years, young, zenith.


Anonymous said...

wow ! surely one of the most interresting thing I ever read about Lovecraft style. Great lot of persons feel that HPL is repetitive. I agree on the words he used but as you have discover not on the process. Do you think that he could possibly apply a mathematical calculation on the construction of his stories ?


Chris Perridas said...

Yes, it is possible to apply mathematical modeling to an author's work. In this manner, anonymous works have been assigned authors, and so forth. Much of it has to do with the idiosyncracies and choices of a writer. Just because "cyclopean" appears in a work, it may not be Lovecraft, but he surely liked words such as those. I hope to do more on this later this year, thanks for reading!


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