As I have mentioned before, HPL was undoubtedly racist. It appears often enough through his works, though more often than not detracts little from the main purpose of the tale. If Lovecraft’s cosmic horror were real, there would be no reason for racist ideas. Essentially we would all equally be reduced down to such insignificant specks that creating some hierarchy within the human race would be obviously pointless.
But it still stands that in a number of writings (especially early poems), HPL’s bigotry is painfully present. I make no excuses for The Street. To be honest, I don’t even like this story. Apart from its racial intolerances, it is really dumb. More akin to a pre-modernist episode of 24, than to what is considered the master works of HPL.
Responding to the current events of his time, The Street could be said to be a product of its era. But we could say that about most artists works. It is true that Lovecraft was writing a quasi-supernatural story that mirrors the real life events of the Boston police strike in 1919, but the horror elements of the tale just fall flat. Instead we are treated to an exophobic story of terrorism plotted by a sinister race. A concept I would be far more comfortable with were it a strange non-human race.
In fact, I often wonder at the reasoning behind Lovecraft’s anti-immigration rhetoric and racial bigotry, after all, in his literary universe nothing truly matters on the larger scale. We are merely cosmic fodder. Though I suppose I could see Lovecraft insisting on some base hierarchy within species. We are dominated by space-faring beings but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to dominate each other. It seems ridiculous, and this needed hierarchy seems more like an addition put in by Clark Ashton Smith (who was notorious for trying to give the Mythos a more classical balance by adding western religious connotations), than it does something from Lovecraft. But we know it is sadly true. Lovecraft wasn’t perfect. And he certainly isn’t some infallible writer either, as is evident by The Street. Really there are many other things to waste your time with. But if you are a completist as well and want to get through all the stories with me, you can read the full text here: HPL’s The Street
You can also check this great podcast from the guys over at HPPodcraft and hear how much they hated it, and get some insight into how Lovecraft fit into the literary movements of his day. TheStreet @ HPPodcraft.com
(Note: no illustration this time, I have been far too busy lately to do one, and let's just face it, this story really isn't worth it.)