The Wonder and Menace of Water

Does the ocean symbolize admiration and wonder yet fear and horror simultaneously?

In “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” by H.P. Lovecraft and Sonia H. Greene, the ocean is represented as a body of water that contains elements of wonder and awe, as well as elements of vengeance and fear. In the beginning of the short story, prior to the horrific incident, the ocean is viewed as an interesting resource that has the ability to spark wonders among people. Also, the ocean and its objects hold very high importance in the scientific community: “The intrinsic marvelousness of the object, and the importance which it clearly bore in the minds of many scientific visitors from near and far, combined to make it the season’s sensation” (Lovecraft & Greene). Therefore, the ocean has become a sensation for many as it has essentially provided a treasure for people to enjoy and study.

However, following the death of the captain and rescuers, the ocean is inevitably viewed as menacing and horrific. While the captain and rescuers attempt to save the victims in the sea, they seem to be hypnotized by the ocean’s relentless force: “Even the strugglers, after a few frantic screams and futile groans, succumbed to the paralyzing influence and kept silent and fatalistic in the face of unknown powers” (Lovecraft & Greene). The strugglers were unable to withhold themselves from the ocean, causing their eventual succumb. The unknown powers represent the fear and horror that is instilled below the ocean’s surface. Furthermore, when the storm ends, the ocean seems serene, contrary to the previous waves. Despite its apparent serenity and harmlessness, the “faint and sinister echoes of a laugh” are heard from the ocean. This represents the menace of water as it has essentially overpowered the rescuers. Thus, the ocean, and water in general, appears to symbolize wonder and menace as it is both a resource and threat to humans.

3 thoughts on “The Wonder and Menace of Water

  1. I agree with you and I think that the ocean is shown as powerful and does have positive and negative effects on humans in the short story. Another example of the ocean as a threat is “a sort of stealthy, deliberate, menacing ripple which rolled in from the far skyline along the shimmering lane of reflected moonbeams, yet which seemed to subside before it reached the shore.” The oceans ripple was described as sinister and frightening. I did not notice the contradiction of the traits given to the ocean as I read, and I like that you pointed it out.
    I think that the ocean is shown as a threat to humans to prove a point about Climate Change. The author is trying to illuminate that nature in general, not just the ocean, reacts to human exploitation of resources. This story shines a light on the excessive harm humans cause to the earth and also warns the reader of its consequences. In the short story, after the sea monster was killed by Captain Orne, a forceful creature from the ocean fights back against human exploitation. A group of men get depicted as “snake” and “serpentine” which have a sort of creepy, negative connotation. The author does not really make you feel bad for the men that are about to die with these descriptions. The author wants the reader to see how the humans may deserve it after exploiting the living creature. At the end of the story it says there were “faint and sinister echoes of a laugh” which suggests that it was a vengeful action. Today, a common debate is whether humans are doing enough to prevent the consequences of climate change and this short story shows that humans can do better.

  2. I would agree with you that the ocean symbolizes admiration and wonder yet fear and horror simultaneously. The ocean is something that can be so fun and fascinating, but in an instant can turn to be dangerous and frightening. This holds true in “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” by H.P. Lovecraft and Sonia H. Greene. It seemed to be a normal day where people “appeared to be enjoying the dance music from the sumptuous ballroom inside” (Lovecraft & Greene). However, moments later a “scream of anguish and despair” (Lovecraft & Greene) changed the whole mood. As people tried to help the pull in whatever was in the ocean, they realized that the creature in the water was taking them to the deep depths of the ocean. What made this even more horrific was that the people holding on to the rope could not let go of the rope and were forced to be taken. The people were hopeless. They had “silent screams and unuttered prayers known only to the demons of the black waves and the night-win” (Lovecraft & Greene). Once the dozen or so people were fully under water, the ocean returned to being calm and deserted. Showing that the ocean can be admired, but also fearful at the same time.

  3. I agree with the premise of this claim that the ocean symbolizes both “admiration and horror” throughout “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” by H.P. Lovecraft and Sonia H. Greene. In this world, society adores the beauty and calmness of the ocean but also fears the mysteriousness that lies underneath the surface of the water. For most people, the ocean is seen as a safe haven where one can go to relax and appreciate the sound that the water makes when the waves crash onto the shore. People find peace by watching the water just sit calmly. Humans tend to categorize a vacation by going near the water because of the beauty that it evokes into our eyes. In this short story, Martin’s Beach is considered in the narrator’s words as, “once more popular as a watering-place” demonstrating that this area of the ocean was once a place of beauty and relaxation. However, nothing in this world is perfect though. Everything has its pros and cons. Society not only adores the ocean but also fear the things that come within it. Under that clear glistening surface, comes dangerous creatures and filth such as killer great white sharks and the growing danger of billions of pounds of trash that is slowly making the ocean a harmful location for us, humans. The narrator also states “I cannot look at the ocean at all now without shuddering” which conveys the narrator’s mixed emotions about the ocean. The ocean is something that will be admired and feared for the rest of our lives. The writer’s argument in their own claim about the varied symbolic meaning of the ocean is agreeable within my own perspective.