Hey, they're always tellin' me to recycle!
Last Halloween I did a breakdown of four categories of horror. So I've repurposed it here, images and all, to talk about the metaphorical nature of horror.
Horror is perfect for metaphor and allegory. In fact, a horror story is often allegorical by default, what with its bizarre landscapes and freaky beasties.
The four categories of horror revisited, and the metaphors/purposes beneath them:
Reality Bites Back
-Scary people and scary animals/nature
These are generally stories about close calls with home invaders, attempted kidnappers, and human traffickers.
Or rabid dogs, vicious sharks, and monkeys.
Okay, this guy might not be real. I'm…I'm gonna cry!
Human killers and the natural world (seen in Jaws and Cujo) have grit and, well, reality to them. I think they're cautionary tales above all else…be respectful of animals, especially ones you don't know! Respect nature!
There are just as many lessons to be learned as far as other people go (or potential other people) Lock your doors! Keep an eye on your drink! Hold your keys between your fingers until you get to the door!
Parents should LOVE horror stories like these and share them liberally (I believe they often do)…but always within reason I suppose. We don't want our kids to become paranoid.
Well…maybe just a little bit. Just enough.
Have you heard the Urban Legend about the killer hiding in the back seat? Good! Hopefully you always check your back seat before getting in your car. I know I do!
-Monsters as Metaphor
The giant bugs of 1940's and 50's scifi were atomic bomb-created.
Frankenstein is our own hubris come back to haunt us. Arrogance and disrespect of nature leads us to the horrors of Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Descent, Alien, etc etc etc.
Vampires and Zombies might represent narcissistic people who DRAIN others of their energy. Perhaps psychopaths and sociopaths are what we're talking about. We must not get too full of ourselves!
We've been warned!
I think that ghost stories are compelling and scary because we ALL wonder, or fear, or anticipate what will happen to us after we die. Ghost stories crack open the door to see what life after death might entail…and the stories also REMIND us of our own mortality. Maybe that's what makes them truly scary.
Ghost stories help us work out the fear of Death itself. That's the ultimate fear!
Or is it?
Demons and buckets of incomprehensibles
This metaphor is the ultimate exercise (exorcise?) of fear of the unknown. The world is a huge place that is largely beyond our control. There are powerful forces out there that have a strong influence over us whether we like it or not. Otherdimensional or demonic Beings and stories give us a chance to deal with those potentially overwhelming emotions.
The little I know about Lovecraft includes his apparently racist, xenophobic tendencies and that his fear of “the Other” had some of its roots in prejudice. Our fear of those who are different is a deep human compulsion I guess; it's one that we can ignore, or try to overcome, and unfortunately something that can be stirred up and exploited in people, as we have seen.
Now that is truly disturbing stuff.
Wishing you all a fun, safe, memorable Halloween season!
MetaphorrorBanes at 12:00AM, Oct. 27, 2016
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bravo1102 at 11:27PM, Oct. 27, 2016
Hansel and Gretal. That great Medieval "kids, don't go wandering in the woods." horror story. Little Red Riding Hood, "kid,don't think you can outsmart a predator" horror story.
Ironscarf at 2:32PM, Oct. 27, 2016
Nice article! Horror, like sc-fi and myth based themes, are great ways to write about the various aspects of human nature. You can reach the parts that other genres just cannot reach.
Banes at 9:57AM, Oct. 27, 2016
@KimLuster - thanks! For sure, those terrible stories might keep us all from serious harm! That's a helpful ghost, eh?
KimLuster at 5:07AM, Oct. 27, 2016
Fantastic article! It's so true that horror in all its forms can often be a metaphor... I remember this old broken down two-story house near us when I was child... Broken windows, doors, at night you could see the house and think you'd see stuff moving... Still during the day we'd want to in there and poke around, but we did't because... The Ghost of Alice Moore lived there!! It was a story the adults told us... to KEEP US FROM GOING IN THERE AND POKING AROUND!! The house itself was very very dangerous... I think that's just a small example of horror used to scare us, and keep us from the 'real' danger!
Banes at 4:34AM, Oct. 27, 2016
@bravo - you're right; I've read a bit and liked it a lot! This article makes it sound like I think that's all there is to his stuff. I didn't express things well. I have an HP collection here; I will have to read some more!
bravo1102 at 12:44AM, Oct. 27, 2016
Knowing that just might help one become a better writer about things that scare you.
bravo1102 at 12:42AM, Oct. 27, 2016
And strangely in being afraid all the time one can become quite brave. Bravery is not the lack of fear, it is the mastery of fear.
bravo1102 at 12:40AM, Oct. 27, 2016
You really need to read more Lovecraft. His work is so much more than that. Always remember that all we have to fear is fear itself. There is nothing to be afraid of that we don't bring with us. Take it from someone who is an expert at being afraid.