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The Outsider

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Outsider” (1926) by H.P. Lovecraft. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.

H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an American writer who is best known for his fantasy and horror fiction, and for creating a fictional universe called The Cthulhu Mythos. The short story “The Outsider” was published in the fantasy and horror fiction magazine Weird Tales in 1926. 

Extract

Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Symbols

For the narrator, light is initially a symbol of desire and fascination. The narrator lights candles and looks at them “for relief” and is disappointed when he cannot reach the light as he climbs the castle’s staircase: “There was no light revealed above”. Soon, light becomes a symbol of the narrator’s obsession: “My mind, stunned and chaotic as it was, still held the frantic craving for light”. The narrator is drawn towards the outside castle, whose windows are “gorgeously ablaze with light”, and ends up scaring the people gathered there. The story’s ending suggests that light has become a symbol of the forbidden, as the narrator knows that light is not for him: “I know that light is not for me, save that of the moon over the rock tombs of Neb”. 

The books that the narrator reads symbolize his only connection with his human side. Although he is undead and a supernatural creature, the narrator does not know it and identifies himself with the people he reads about and sees in books: “I merely regarded myself by instinct as akin to the youthful figures I saw drawn and painted in the books”. 

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The Outsider

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