Pollock and the Porroh Man, H. G. Wells: Summary & Analysis

"Pollock and the Porroh Man" is a captivating short story by H. G. Wells, first published in the New Budget on May 23, 1895. Set against the backdrop of Sierra Leone, the narrative unfolds as a tale of magic, revenge, and adventure, bordering on the genre of horror with a touch of fantasy.

Pollock and the Porroh Man’ Full Summary

1. Encounter in Sierra Leone:

In Sierra Leone, the protagonist, Pollock, narrowly escapes a fatal encounter with a Porroh man, a local witch-doctor. The conflict arises from Pollock's involvement with a woman, claimed by the Porroh man. The insinuation of an affair adds complexity to the story, setting the stage for supernatural consequences.

2. Cultural Clash and Departure:

Waterhouse, another British man, rebukes Pollock for his conflicts with African natives and disrespect for local beliefs. Pollock's reckless behavior, including sacrilegious acts, leads to an order to return to England. The journey through Sierra Leone becomes a symbol of cultural clashes and consequences.

3. Pact with Mendi:

While waiting for his ship home, Pollock befriends Perera and becomes increasingly anxious about the dark magic of the Porroh. In a desperate attempt to escape supernatural retribution, Pollock pays a native named Mendi to eliminate the pursuing Porroh man. The severed head becomes a haunting symbol of consequences.

4. The Haunting Head:

Pollock's attempts to dispose of the Porroh's head persistently fail, defying burial and casting into the sea. The head becomes an ominous presence, blurring the line between reality and hallucination. Questions about Pollock's sanity and the supernatural nature of the head contribute to psychological horror elements.

5. Return to London and Mental Struggle:

Back in London, the head continues to torment Pollock, leading to a traumatic accident. Medical attempts to cure Pollock's mental struggle prove futile, symbolizing the inescapable consequences of his actions. The head's interference becomes a metaphor for the relentless grip of the supernatural on Pollock's life.

6. Tragic Conclusion:

Convinced that the head is a hallucination, Pollock contemplates suicide as rationalization efforts fail. The head's menacing presence symbolizes the inevitable supernatural consequences. The story concludes with Pollock's tragic realization, highlighting the enduring impact of his encounters in Sierra Leone.

In essence, "Pollock and the Porroh Man" weaves a narrative of cultural clash, supernatural consequences, and psychological torment. The persistent presence of the Porroh's head serves as a haunting symbol throughout the story, ultimately leading to Pollock's tragic fate.

Critical Analysis of Pollock and the Porroh Man

Exploring the Haunting Elements:

"H. G. Wells's 'Pollock and the Porroh Man'" stands out as a chilling narrative that skillfully navigates the realms of the supernatural and the psychological. Wells, renowned for his rationalist approach, masterfully blurs the boundaries, leaving readers in suspense regarding the true nature of Pollock's haunting experiences. The story, set against the backdrop of an African curse linked to the Porroh secret society, unfolds as a tale of unnerving obsession.

The Supernatural and Psychological Intersection:

Wells intricately weaves together the supernatural and psychological elements, prompting readers to question whether Pollock's plight is a result of potent West African magic or a manifestation of his unraveling sanity. The ambiguity persists until the story's conclusion, adding layers of complexity to the narrative. The Porroh, rooted in African traditions, serves as a mysterious force, contributing to the story's eerie atmosphere. *Comparison with 'The Moth':* A compelling parallel arises when comparing 'Pollock and the Porroh Man' with another Wells creation, 'The Moth.' Both tales delve into the theme of obsession, portraying protagonists haunted by relentless pursuits that lead to their mental breakdowns. While 'The Moth' features a titular insect as the tormentor, 'Pollock and the Porroh Man' employs the symbolic Porroh head. This thematic similarity invites readers to explore Wells's recurrent fascination with the destructive power of all-consuming fixations.

Imperialism and Disgrace:

The imperial setting of 'Pollock and the Porroh Man' transcends mere backdrop status, assuming thematic significance. Pollock, representing the British empire, emerges as a disgraceful figure. Wells deliberately crafts Pollock's character to be unsympathetic, inviting readers to question whether his eventual fate is a consequence of genuine supernatural forces or the suggestive power of psychological torment. The story, therefore, serves as a critique of imperial arrogance and cultural insensitivity.

Deserving of Fate:

The narrative subtly nudges readers to contemplate Pollock's moral standing and whether his imperialistic actions warrant the haunting fate that befalls him. Wells, known for his social commentary, uses Pollock as a lens through which to scrutinize the arrogance of the British empire. Whether the curse is a just consequence or a product of Pollock's unraveling psyche becomes a thought-provoking element, encouraging readers to grapple with themes of justice and retribution.

In essence, 'Pollock and the Porroh Man' transcends the conventional boundaries of horror and psychological fiction, offering a nuanced exploration of the supernatural and the human psyche. Wells's narrative craftsmanship leaves a lingering sense of unease, prompting readers to confront the ambiguity of Pollock's plight and the broader implications of imperialistic attitudes.

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