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The ending of "The Little Stranger" by Sarah Waters. Warning! Spoilers within!

(68 Posts)
BornToFolk Tue 19-Jan-10 12:08:03

So, I've just finished this. I really enjoyed it but I felt a bit let down by the ending. I was expecting some kind of twist, or revelation and it just seemed to....end.

Did I miss something?

GetOrfMoiLand Tue 19-Jan-10 12:13:05

Ooh see now I thought the twist was at the end.

Towards the last third of the book I was thinking that Dr Faraday was the catalyst for all this behaviour, that he from the very beginning had an obsession with the house (from stealing the moulding when he was a boy), he was all keen to get Rod and Mrs Ayres out. Think all the phenomena were psychological disturbances or ghostly apparitions, however he was the bad apple which bouight them all out.

On the night of the wedding I hid doppleganger/apparition of himself went and that is why Miss A said 'you!' and hurtled down the staircase.

Right at the end he looks in the mirror - I can't remember the wording however i read ot to mean that the little stranger was him.

theyoungvisiter Tue 19-Jan-10 12:15:19

Oo what fun!

Ok, for me the key was the bit right at the end where the doctor is literally haunting Hundreds Hall, and he's looking for the ghost, and for a moment he thinks he's seen it, but it's his own face.

Thus basically saying HE is the ghost.

I think it's significant that he is the first person to start the destruction of hundreds - by chipping off the acorn - and the last person to put the nail in.

But where I think the jury is out is how/why... will post more in a sec but have to go and see to DS2.. will be back...

interested to hear what others think!

pofarced Tue 19-Jan-10 12:16:50

I think the idea is that Faraday is an unreliable narrator and you start to realise this as time goes on. When Caroline talks about poltergeist activity being an extension of someone's subconcious mind, he discusses this with the other consultant doctor who says this can happen with the female subconcious. By the end you realise it is Faraday's own subconscious that is the culprit, and that either he or his ghostly subconscious form has murdered Caroline, but quite probably himself. In fact he could have done all the things himself without any supernatural interference at all, if he had lied about where he was, for example when he goes to London. He haunts the house at the end, when he sees his own distorted reflection in the pane of cracked glass.

pofarced Tue 19-Jan-10 12:18:19

the female subconscious mind, sorry.

theyoungvisiter Tue 19-Jan-10 12:19:32

cross-posted with Orf - I think we have the same idea.

I am not sure though whether

a) it's literally supernatural - a manifestation of his angst or whatever or

b) he's willing a third party ghost on

c) he's going nuts and doing all this in an unconscious state - pretty much everything happens while he's either there or nearby (sleeping in his car close to the house in the case of Caroline's death). There are a few unexplanable events but you have to take into account that it's ALL narrated by him (even when the obvious logical narrative choice would have been a shift in narrator Waters goes to extraordinary lengths to keep it within Faraday's POV). I think we have to conclude that there is something outside Faraday's POV that would burst the bubble - that he is creating the ghost in someway or another, but whether within his own madness or literally creating the ghost, I don't know.

GetOrfMoiLand Tue 19-Jan-10 12:20:50

Isn;t it all wonderfully sinister?

I mean the way the book is written from Dr faraday;s pov, he is so bland isn't he, when really he is the one who destroyed the family in the end, without him consciously realising it.

GetOrfMoiLand Tue 19-Jan-10 12:22:36

x post visitor.

yes that is what I really like - I cannot for the life of me fathom out if it is supposed to be a ghost, his subconscious or a mixture of the two, and I think the ambiguity of it is what makes the book so compelling.

theyoungvisiter Tue 19-Jan-10 12:25:13

Also all the ghostly events work towards Faraday getting his aim, which is the possession of Hundreds Hall.

He only wants Caroline as long as she's a conduit towards possessing the Hall. As soon as she makes it clear her main aim in getting married is to get away, then the "ghost" murders her and Faraday takes possession of the place.

Someone I spoke to though gave a v persuasive account that it could be some kind of mass hysteria induced by the evilness of the house
1) Mrs Ayres genuinely believes that her daughter is haunting her, and has marks on her body to prove it that Faraday couldn't have caused
2) some of Roddy's burn marks appear when he is alone
3) Only Caroline recognises the hall for what it is and tries to get away.
3) In this scenario Faraday is part of the ghost but only part - the hall is acting on him as much as anyone else, and is using him as a conduit to keep Caroline there when she tries to escape.

So this scenario accepts that Faraday is probably responsible for much of the action, but asks why, and the answer is the seed of madness that was planted that first day he visited the hall and was induced to his first destructive act (the acorn) out of love for the Hall itself.

BornToFolk Tue 19-Jan-10 12:27:29

Yes, I did think that the extent to which Dr Faraday was losing it after Caroline broke off the engagement made him look a bit suspect and a less reliable narrator...

He is totally obsessed with the house isn't he? When Caroline says that she's going to leave, he's outraged. But you'd think that if your fiancee was living in a haunted house (or at least a house that she believed to be haunted) you'd want to get her out as soon as possible. But he really wanted to be master of Hundreds didn't he?

TheOldestCat Tue 19-Jan-10 12:28:03

Oh I'm so glad of this thread as I've just finished it too!

Agree that it seems as if it's actually Faraday's subconscious that's responsible for it (or he is actually physically responsible). Great twist on the usual female psyche unleashing the psychological disturbances.

Brilliant read.

theyoungvisiter Tue 19-Jan-10 12:31:46

so what do you think Folk - have any of our theories convinced you? grin

bran Tue 19-Jan-10 12:35:44

I thought the book club chat with Sarah Waters was very interesting (if you haven't already seen it). She said she wrote it deliberately open-ended about what Faraday's exact role was.

MarquiseDeMerteuil Tue 19-Jan-10 12:49:33

I read it about six months ago, so forgive me if I am a bit vague on the detials.

theyoungvisitor - I would go with your option 'C'. As I read it, his obsession with the house and desparation to become master of it gradually takes him over, leading him to (consciously, sub-consiously or possibly even sleepwalking?) stage all the little 'spooky incidents' to plant fear into the minds of Carloline, Roddy and the mother.

He is obsessed with class and 'bettering himself', and has a bit of an inferiority complex, which seems to make him increasingly stressed and irrational, and seems to contribute to the fact that he seems to be going gradually nuts.

Whether the 'spooky incidents' (episode with the dog, marks on the walls, voice in the speaking tube etc.) are supposed to have occurred exactly as he narrates them is another matter - he is an extremely unreliable narrator.

Just my opinion, everyone I know who has read this has had quite divergent views.

fishie Tue 19-Jan-10 12:55:26

that's what i meant on the other thread, about feeling a lack of something more. i don't mind it being open ended but it was a bit too vague.

GetOrfMoiLand Tue 19-Jan-10 13:00:48

Just read the webchat with Sarah W - there was a lot of chat re unreliable narrator, which I never actually considered.

Ooh what great book. Can people recommend any others of this ilk? I am going to read Turn of the Screw and Rebecca next.

BornToFolk Tue 19-Jan-10 13:07:27

It's certainly given me a lot to think about!

I was a bit let down by the ending as I really wanted to find out what was going on but now I'm quite glad it finished like that as it's given me lots to mull over.

theyoungvisiter Tue 19-Jan-10 13:49:47

Turn of the Screw and Rebecca are both FAB.

The Woman in Black is jolly spooky for those who like period chills.

PanicMode Thu 21-Jan-10 21:04:17

I've just finished this - what a great book! I did find myself thinking that it was a bit derivative (Woman in Black, Rebecca, Turn of the Screw), but I loved the ambiguity of the ending.

I ended up thinking that Faraday was the eponymous 'hero' - obviously being the narrator gives him the ability to tell the story his way, and all the way through I kept thinking that even when he was reporting what had happened, the phrasing was exceedingly carefully constructed to divert suspicion away from himself.

I haven't read any of her books before, but I shall be off to the library forthwith!

BecauseImWorthIt Wed 27-Jan-10 13:30:56

Mmm. Not sure about this. When he comes along it's Bella (is that her name? I've forgotten already!) who reports suspicions about the house before, Faraday has become involved that much. And why the episode with Gyp, which causes Caroline so much distress - again, before he's involved with her?

I enjoyed the story, and the writing, and the whole build up, but was also disappointed about the ending. It was a bit like 'and then I woke up and it was all a dream' - as if she didn't know how to end it.

RollBaubleUnderTree Wed 27-Jan-10 13:47:20

I agree, I didn't really like the ending. I preferred Affinty.

pollywollydoodle Tue 02-Feb-10 21:29:46

hi moomin
to avoid spoilers on the other thread, thought i'd post here
well there was me thinking i'd been clevergrin...glad i didn't read this thread first

I thought faraday was the little stranger, feeling alienated/alienating himself in his family, the medical world and the ayres family.

He presents himself as bland and correct but even with himself as narrator his character sent a shiver down my spine ;he never seemed to have problem with destroying things which he wanted to possess (the hall as a child tearing the acorn out, caroline...making her into an uncaroline-like
woman/ poss raping her (what else does he deny to himself) and again the hall possessing it without the know how or cash to restore it

I thought he (probably unconsciously but with him as narrator, who knows?) took advantage of the idea that there was a ghost seeded by the servant girl and set all in motion...including the gyp incident which made caroline more lonely and vulnerable with more possibility of turning to him.

i loved that he was called faraday with all the ideas of conductors and magnetic fields that go with the name.

i leaned towards the idea that he did the the stuff that indicated "hauntings", rather than there being actual hauntings, as all thru he represented an argument that there were no such things as ghosts/poltergeists...i heard that as his unconscious mind sending a clue to him/us

i love it when things aren't cut and dried!

what did you think?

ADifferentMe Tue 02-Feb-10 21:57:19

I think you're all a lot more clever than me! Now that I read the theories, I can see exactly what each of you means but I was so busy tearing through it to find out what happened, I read it too fast and didn't analyse enough.........

MoominMymbleandMy Tue 02-Feb-10 21:59:09

Ooh, yes, Polly, you were wondering the same things and coming to the same conclusions! I thought Faraday's greed for the Hall and the lifestyle it had represented to him as a child, was creating some kind of poltergeist.

I don't think he was conscious of it, but do you remember Gyp's attack on the Baker-Hyde child came just after Faraday realised he was just a makeweight at the party and Caroline and her mother were setting out to catch the rich bloke.

Gouging out the acorn as a child seemed very significant because he was damaging the Hall in his desire to possess it.

Nothing really happened until he started visiting. Betty complained the house was so big, empty and lonely that it frightened her but she didn't say anything else.

Then, of course, there was the nightmare that he was rushing to the hall the night Caroline died. And she recognised someone when she was running away.

He seemed increasingly deranged towards the end, urging Caroline to stay at the Hall when any normal fiance, even if they thought the supernatural stuff was hokum, would be encouraging her to leave because of all the horrible memories, not to mention the fact it's becoming increasingly uninhabitable.

And then the end, when he wonders about the ghost, and sees his own face.

I didn't pick up on Faraday/conductor at all. That was clever of you.

But, yes, I'm sure he was causing the little stranger and I think he remained unaware of it.

I did love it being so open-ended. I think the best spooky stories are never cut and dried, but leave lots of unanswered questions.

pollywollydoodle Tue 02-Feb-10 22:20:53

ah, took me a long time to get into it, so i put it down for about 6 weeks in the middle.... i had forgotten about him feeling unimportant at the party....and i'd obviously bought into the suggestion that betty complained of ghostly goings on not just that she projected her lonely "frit" feelings onto the hall

didn't know if it was him creating a poltergeist or as simple as him physically doing things but unconsciously....with it getting closer to his consciousness towards the end when he talks of seeing caroline's death and then he goes mad...completely out of touch with reality, floating around the decrepit hall that isn't even his...a ghost of his former self if you like...

a different me...i raced thrugh the last third of the book too!...it all changed for me after that conversation he has with caroline about poltergeists then he goes to seeley(who he doesn'y usually have time for) about how these things usually originate with women...then he's doing post mortems on his own cases and i started then to think how much he was covering his own back....until then i was reading it as a ghost story "proper"

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