Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” and Shelley’s Frankenstein are two works that we have read/ are in the process of reading that feature narrators who struggle to cope with a reality that is irreconcilable with normality. In “The Call of Cthulhu” Thurston desires to reveal the truth about an unsolved mystery and make a name in the process of doing so, but in the end Thurston finds only psychological ruin and the desperate need to make sense of incomprehensible horror. Frankenstein, meanwhile, seeks to rewrite the laws of physical science but finds only grave dissatisfaction in his exploit. The protagonists of both works desperately attempt to deal with the consequences of opening Pandora’s Box.
Thurston and Frankenstein are very much alike in that they find only disillusionment in their endeavors, but it is their attempts to purify that sense of disillusionment that sets them apart. For Thurston purification means writing a detailed account of his findings, collaborated with credible witnesses, to thus establish a new normal (a paradigm-shift), for Frankenstein that means attempting to exterminate the monster that he created (a paradigm-reversion). But once one opens Pandora’s Box, can the lid be resealed?
Author and former United States Army soldier, Colby Buzzell, deals with similar themes of disillusionment and attempted “reconciliation” in the animated film “Excerpt from ‘Operation Homecoming:’”
For Buzzell, reconciliation means following the advice of a fellow soldier: “put all the things that bother you and keep you awake at night, and clog your head up; put all of those things in a shoebox, put the lid on it, and deal with it later.” Though Buzzell’s firsthand account of combat does not reflect the sort of commentary on scientific/cultural paradigm-shifts offered to readers by Lovecraft or Shelley, Buzzell’s account nonetheless reflects upon a different kind of paradigm shift– the paradigm-shift of the individual psyche. In both non-fiction and fiction, it would seem, putting a lid on the box is only the first of many steps toward resolution.