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The Colour Out of Space by HP Lovecraft: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Usually colour is associated the vibrancy of life, but in this story, colour will take your life away. In this lesson we will read a summary of the short story, 'The Colour Out of Space' by H.P. Lovecraft, and analyze its meaning.

Out of This World

Do you believe in aliens or life from distant planets? If so, what do you envision? Are they green men with big eyes, or do they look just like us? In this story, it is another form all together. The narrator in 'The Colour Out of Space' by H.P. Lovecraft wasn't so sure about this type of phenomena until he encountered an area touched by something out of this world. Read this summary to learn about the horrors a meteorite brought to a small town in Massachusetts.

The Blasted Heath

An unnamed narrator recalls a job he was sent on years ago in Arkham, Massachusetts. He was sent to survey the surrounding land for a new reservoir, but this land has a dark history attached to it. He hears the legends from the people in town but doesn't believe them until he visits the place for himself. He meets with Ammi Pierce, a local who has been around the area since the strange days and is the only person who knows, and still lives near, the blasted heath.

Ammi explains that a meteorite had fallen from the sky, and landed where a man named Nahum Gardner lived. Nahum told professors of a nearby college, but after numerous tests, nothing could be concluded, and the rock eventually disintegrated, along with the nearby objects.

The scientists went back to collect more evidence, and as they chipped away at the meteorite, they found globules within the rock that had colours that could not be described. That night, a thunderstorm brought lightning that hit the mass several times. The last usable fragments in the lab vanished within a week and testing ceased.

The Strange Days

Nahum planted his crops and tended the fields. This harvest was the best he'd ever experienced, but the food tasted horrible. Nahum and his family grew weak in spirit and felt something was wrong with the surrounding area. Others began to notice weird growths around Nahum's house that were large and unnameable in colour. The trees swayed without wind, and a faint glow come from the vegetation. The Nahum place seemed to be poisoned. All agreed it was the meteorite, or the blasted heath.

Eventually, the colours turned faint, dull, and grey. Soon after, Mrs. Gardner began hallucinating. Nahum refused to send her to an asylum, so he was resigned to lock her in the attic. Ammi felt the well water was poisoned, but Nahum didn't heed his warning. One of Nahum's sons, Thaddeus, went mad after a trip to the well, where he claimed he saw moving colours. Nahum had no choice but to lock him in in the attic, too.

Then the grey wave hit the livestock. Animals turned grey and brittle and began to disintegrate before they died. The same happened to Thaddeus soon after he was locked in the attic, and another of Nahum's sons, Merwin, disappeared one night while getting water.

The Deadly Truth

Ammi went to check on Nahum and found him talking to himself on the couch, believing he was talking to his son Zenas, who had also disappeared. Ammi decided to check on Mrs. Gardner. He climbed the attic stairs, unlocked the door, and found a black mass slowly decaying in the corner. The story implies that Ammi did the humane thing and killed what was left of Mrs. Gardner. He retreated downstairs but stopped as he heard sounds of liquid and suction moving beneath him. He heard his horse run off and a splashing in the well.

Nahum slowly walked toward Ammi, his body flaking away piece by piece. Before Nahum disintegrated, he explained that the color spectrum inside the meteorite was now in the well. Nahum told Ammi that the colours take the life out of you. Nahum collapsed, and Ammi ran out of the house. He reluctantly brought officers and the medical examiner back to the house.

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