“In His Own Image” by Robert E. Howard is a vivid 2200-word narrative that explores the diverse and often harsh societal landscape of New Orleans through the eyes of the author. Written during Howard’s visit to the city in the early 20th century, the essay captures the essence of its people and the complexities of urban life.

Howard’s essay, through detailed descriptions and encounters, offers a window into the complexities of New Orleans, illustrating both its cultural richness and the socio-economic challenges faced by its inhabitants.


The essay opens with Howard’s reflections on the dilapidated grandeur of New Orleans’ Latin Quarter. He describes the once aristocratic district that has now decayed into overcrowded tenements housing Italian immigrants, capturing the sense of a past glory now faded. These immigrants, he notes, have taken over the homes once belonging to French Creoles, leading to a cultural displacement that mirrors the physical decay of the buildings.

Howard introduces Joe Rizzo, a Sicilian immigrant who has achieved financial success through sheer hard work, owning several restaurants. Yet, despite his economic success, Rizzo’s life is depicted as one of relentless toil, devoid of the pleasures that wealth is supposed to bring. This theme of hard work without enjoyment is underscored by Howard’s descriptions of the Rizzos’ daily routines and their interaction, or lack thereof, with their customers.

As Howard delves deeper into the city, he encounters various other characters who contribute to the rich tapestry of New Orleans’ diverse population. These include a cheerful but incomprehensible Spanish barber, and various other individuals from different ethnic backgrounds. The narrative builds a picture of a city bustling with life but also marked by social and racial divides.

The climax of Howard’s exploration comes when he encounters a grotesquely deformed man, a descendant of the Cajun community, whose appearance challenges the reader’s understanding of humanity. This man, a product of severe genetic isolation and interbreeding, represents the darker undercurrents of genetic and social decay lurking beneath the city’s vibrant exterior.

The essay concludes on a poignant note with Howard overhearing a street preacher’s declaration that “God made man in his own image.” This statement resonates ironically with Howard’s recent encounter, highlighting the contrast between theological ideals and the harsh realities observed in the city.

Involved persons

  • Robert Ervin Howard: The narrator, exploring the cultural and social diversity of New Orleans, reflecting on the human condition within the city.
  • Joe Rizzo: A Sicilian immigrant and a symbol of the immigrant work ethic, who sacrifices personal enjoyment for financial security.
  • Johanna Rizzo: Joe’s wife, who shares in the hard labor of running their restaurant.
  • Spanish Barber: Represents the city’s multicultural aspect and the everyday interactions that define New Orleans’ social fabric.
  • Deformed Man: Symbolizes the negative consequences of genetic isolation and serves as a stark contrast to the city’s lively atmosphere.
  • Street Preacher: His proclamation adds a philosophical layer to the narrative, contrasting the idealistic image of humanity with the more troubling images Howard encounters.

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