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The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen

The Great God Pan (1894)

by Arthur Machen

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4161425,516 (3.61)2 / 39
  1. 00
    Revival by Stephen King (sturlington)
    sturlington: King says in the epigraph to Revival that this story has haunted him all his life.
  2. 00
    Alraune by Hanns Heinz Ewers (CarlosMcRey)

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English (13)  French (1)  All languages (14)
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Stephen King has said that this is a horror story that has haunted him all his life. The influence on his novels and others (including H. P. Lovecraft) is undeniable, but despite all the apologists, it is hard to see this story as anything other than an expression of fear and othering of women, especially women who assert their independence. There are two female characters, neither of which gets to speak for herself. One is a meek victim who is violated without much sense of guilt or remorse; consider these words by the doctor who performs brain surgery on her without her consent, causing her to literally lose her mind: "As you know, I rescued Mary from the gutter, and from almost certain starvation, when she was a child; I think her life is mine, to use as I feel fit."

The other woman never actually appears on the page, but is only talked about. She victimizes men, with their consent, at least at first. She also terrifies every man in the piece, but she didn't particularly terrify me. Helen is a woman of independent means, who does what she wants when she wants, who indulges her own pleasures, and who cannot be controlled; therefore, she must be destroyed.

I often find that these Pan-inspired stories are seething with misogyny. Compare with Harvest Home. ( )
  sturlington | Aug 29, 2016 |
"Consider the matter well, Raymond. It's a great responsibility. Something might go wrong; you would be a miserable man for the rest of your days."
"No, I think not, even if the worst happened. As you know, I rescued Mary from the gutter, and from almost certain starvation, when she was a child; I think her life is mine, to use as I feel fit. Come, it's getting late; we had better go in."

Dr. Raymond believes that 'a trifling rearrangement of certain cells' in the brain would allow anyone to see the Great God Pan but his foolhardy attempt to prove his theory ends in disaster, to the horror of his friend Mr. Clarke who was invited to watch the surgery. The rest of the story concerns Mr. Clarke's occult interests, which lead him to the intertwined stories of a strange young girl fostered by a farmer, a beautiful but somehow repulsive woman who married and ruined a friend of a friend, and of a series of suicides by rich young men with everything to live for.

The sort of horror story without any monsters, but where the sense of evil permeates everything. ( )
1 vote isabelx | Mar 20, 2016 |
Every sentence succeeded in making me feel very uneasy, rarely pure terror, just the feeling that things were not quite right. Any novella that can accomplish this consistently for a hundred pages must surely be a true work of horror. ( )
  hickey92 | Jan 24, 2016 |
I found this in the Dover catalog and looked it up on Project Gutenberg on a whim. It strikes me as fairly typical Victorian gothic horror but, according to the catalog blurb, it 'scandalized Victorian London'. Perhaps it is not nessecary to believe all catalog blurbs.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
An effective example of its genre - early cosmic horror, locating the horrific in inexplicable natural phenomena, and achieving its effectiveness through a lack of description of the specific horrors - but of course just as problematic as Victorian fiction will always tend to be. I'm intrigued by the fact, though, that there is a reading of this book, completely coherent with the text, where all the horrible consequences come from the original violation of a woman's agency and bodily integrity. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Jun 20, 2014 |
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"I am glad you came, Clarke; very glad indeed. I was not sure you could spare the time."
"As you know, I rescued Mary from the gutter, and from almost certain starvation, when she was a child; I think her life is mine, to use as I feel fit."
We know what happened to those who chanced to meet the Great God Pan, and those who are wise know that all symbols are symbols of something, not of nothing.
And I forgot, as I have just said, that when the house of life is thus thrown open, there may enter in that for which we have no name, and human flesh may become the veil of a horror one dare not express.
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Book description
Here you will find the most significant contribution of Arthur Machen’s classic tales of dark fantasy and horror. With an introduction by S.T. Joshi who also contributes, notes and a complete Machen bibliography. This is a must have for the Machen enthusiast and Weird Tales collector.

The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen was widely criticized by the press as degenerate and horrific due to its profligate style and sexual content, although since his work has since garnered a reputation as a classic of modern horror.

In Supernatural Horror in Literature H. P. Lovecraft praised the novel, saying: "No one could begin to describe the cumulative suspense and ultimate horror with which every paragraph abounds"; he added that "the sensitive reader" reaches the end with "an appreciative shudder." Lovecraft also noted, however, that "melodrama is undeniably present, and coincidence is stretched to a length which appears absurd upon analysis."
Haiku summary
Tame by modern tastes:
supernatural horror,

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809544601, Paperback)

"Of Mr. Machen's horror-tales the most famous is perhaps 'The Great God Pan' (1894) which tells of a singular and terrible experiment and its consequences."-H. P. Lovecraft

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

An experiment into the sources of the human brain through the mind of a young woman has gone horribly wrong. She has seen the great God Pan and will die giving birth to a daughter, Helen Vaughan. Helen Vaughan becomes the source of much fevered speculation when, twenty years later, she is feted as a society hostess of great charm.… (more)

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