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Literature / The Outsider (1926)

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The Outsider is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft and published in Weird Tales magazine in 1926. The story revolves around a nameless protagonist who has lived alone in a crumbling castle for as long as he can remember. He has no memory of who he is, how he came to live here, or of ever meeting anyone else. The entirety of his knowledge of the world outside comes from books he's found lying around the castle. One day he decides he's had enough of the isolation and tries to escape. One of Lovecraft's most famous stories, it has also become a major example of It Was His Sled.


Stuart Gordon, best known for his other Lovecraft adaptations Re-Animator and From Beyond, directed a film adaptation in 1995 called Castle Freak. See that page for tropes relating specifically to the movie. Not to be confused with the 2018 novel by one of Lovecraft's biggest fans.

This short story provides examples of:

  • Dead All Along: Well, undead, in the narrator's case.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: One of the protagonist's primary motivations is preventing this.
  • No Name Given: We never learn the protagonist's name. This is only natural, as the story is narrated from his perspective and he himself doesn't know his name.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: After escaping from his castle, the narrator comes across a party at a different castle, one he finds "maddeningly familiar". Upon entering, he is surprised when all the guests start shrieking in terror and flee from the room as he enters it. He then sees a horrifying, decaying, undead humanoid figure standing in what he thinks is a doorway and realizes that must be what scared everyone off. In his fright, he loses his balance and stumbles toward the creature, but only touches a mirror.
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  • The Un-Reveal: Much of the protagonist's backstory remains a mystery. Who is he? How did he wind up in the castle and where is everybody else? How did he die and how did he come back?


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