Please note I have this story 3.5 stars and rounded it to 4 stars on Goodreads.
I initially picked this to read for my classic horror square, but read something else instead. I still think this is a good short story to read that is not too gory for the non-horror reader group.
Written in 1894, "The Great God Pan" created a hysterical stir for being seen as degenerate writing that depicted sexual situations that just were not talked about in polite circles.
I guess those Victorians were super sensitive because I'm not seeing that here. Machen makes a lot of illusions in his writing, but doesnt come out and say anything. I think people's imaginations once again showed them how terrible things could possibly be and it freaked them out.
The story begins with a doctor named Raymond conducting an experiment on a young woman named Mary (love the Biblical significance) and has his friend Clarke there as well. Doctor Raymond simply treats Mary like a frog in an experiment and doesn't think she has much to object to and even if she does, who cares. After the experiment Mary is left terrified and unable to communicate. It's implied she is addled in some way as well.
The story jumps around from there and it focuses on a young woman named Helen (Helen of Troy perhaps?) who lives with a family in a wooded area and is gone for hours at a time. Rumors circulate about her and as a reader, you realize that something is not quite right with Helen.
I found the plot a bit odd because it didn't make any sense how this experiment opened a doorway into anything. I did like how in the end the author finally shows you why it jumped around it did for the final reveal. I did thing the long monologue at the beginning was boring as anything. It was pretty much screaming man who thinks he knows everything is thumbing his nose at danger.
I wish we had gotten a better sense of Pan. For me I think of the half faun creature playing a reed pipe. Who knew it was a sinister God here to stalk mankind.
I thought it was an okay short story, but wish it had delved more into the character of Helen instead of her being described by a bunch of men.