Proceeding in an Orderly Fashion

Earlier, I came across a theory that Inspector Legrasse suffered mental health issues following the Bayou raid, either from the raid itself, having the Cthulhu statue in his possession, or the cult attempting to recover the statue. While popular perception is that all Lovecraft’s heroes go insane, I didn’t recall Legrasse suffering a collapse. Rereading the story again revealed the inspector was potentially even less traumatized than I thought.

When Legrasse attends the 1908 meeting of the American Archeological Society, he is described as “scarcely prepared for the sensation which his offering created”. The report goes on to say indicate that he lent the statue to Professor Webb, who kept it until his death. While mental trauma can present in many ways, not all of them extreme or chronic, surprise at everyone being so interested strongly suggests Legrasse didn’t consider the ritual as significant in the way someone who was still traumatized might.

(©Benoît Stella – CC BY SA 3.0)

The story does mention one of the investigators being affected by witnessing the ritual:

It may have been only imagination and it may have been only echoes which induced one of the men, an excitable Spaniard, to fancy he heard antiphonal responses to the ritual from some far and unillumined spot deeper within the wood of ancient legendry and horror. This man, Joseph D. Galvez, I later met and questioned; and he proved distractingly imaginative.”

This contrasts with the narrator’s interview of Legrasse many years later which gained “no more than a detailed confirmation of what my uncle had written”; this consistency over many years suggests a lack of trauma emerging after the event.

The statue ends up with Legrasse because it was returned to him on Professor Webb’s death. While he perhaps technically should have returned it to Police evidence lock up at that point, the investigation into the Bayou ritual and any subsequent prosecutions were long over so, while Lovecraft does not mention either way, it is entirely probable Legrasse was allowed to keep it as a memento of one of his strangest cases rather than because of an ongoing obsession with the case.

Lovecraft’s narrator states that “Legrasse and his men, it is true, have been let alone”; as the narrator believed the cult was acting against those aware of it, so would be predisposed to mention even debatable evidence, this flat statement that the cult didn’t bother Legrasse strongly suggests they didn’t attempt to recover the statue.

Therefore, while it is possible Legrasse was more shaken than the story presents and was hiding it behind a ‘stiff upper lip’, his behaviour and subsequent life—in contrast to many of those mentioned in the story—displays no sign of trauma or later cult interest. A case could be made that he stole the statue, but even that is tenuous given it was tacitly accepted police detectives might keep bits of closed cases.

In fact, Legrasse comes out of his meeting with cosmic horror so well compared even to recurring characters such as Randolph Carter that part of me now wonders if he, and not Carter, was Lovecraft’s Mary Sue.

3 thoughts on “Proceeding in an Orderly Fashion

  1. I’m not sure about that. Mary Sues tend to be prized creations of their authors, whereas most of HPL’s characters are merely funnels for their bizarre and horrific experiences. HPL rarely invests them with much in the way of details about their backgrounds or personalities beyond establishing them as proper educated New Englanders. I must admit I have forgotten any personal details about Legrasse. Or maybe there aren’t many, which would be consistent with his serving only to report what he had seen, with his position as a policeman giving him credibility.

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    1. Didn’t mean Mary Sue, noggin must have failed to correlate properly for some wise. I meant Legrasse is there to represent Lovecraft’s ideal. Unlike Carter, or other characters, he faces the true universe, investigates,and remains sane; given Lovecraft’s clear theme of “degenerates” embracing the Mythos, this puts Legrasse higher up the scale than most civilised characters who discover the horror because he does not degenerate at all.

      Certainly Lovecraft doesn’t detail Legrasse that much, but he doesn’t detail anyone much so in context he’s arguably as fleshed out as a main character.

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