kittiwake: (stormclouds)
[personal profile] kittiwake
Mrs Ayres sighed. 'How this house likes to catch us out, doesn't it? As if it knows all our weaknesses and is testing them, one by one . . . God, how dreadfully tired I am.

Were the strange and tragic events at Hundreds Hall caused by the ghost of a dead child, a poltergeist linked to the presence of a homesick adolescent maid, a taint of ancestral madness, the phantasm of a living person obsessed by the house (whether through wanting to possess the house, or wanting to escape from it), or by the house itself complaining of neglect? I quite like the fact that you never find out what has caused the strange events at Hundreds Hall, although the last few pages do seem to point in one direction.

Both the family and their servants realise that it is the Ayres family who are being targetted. The servants may be teased and frightened, but it is only members of the family who are harmed. 'I haven't done nothing,' she said, 'and I haven't said nothing! I don't like to think of it, anyhow. It makes me frit if I think about it when I'm downstairs on me own. It isn't my bad thing, that's what Mrs Bazeley says. If I don't go bothering him, she says, he won't come bothering me.'

I found Doctor Faraday quite creepy. He worms his way into the household, and seems not to see how much of a burden the decrepit house is to the Ayres family. Or rather, he does not want to see it, and no matter how many times they mention it, he brushes their worries aside. I noticed that it is shortly after he hears that Rod may possibly stop him from using the short-cut across the park, that Faraday started to push for Rod being committed, either voluntarily or against his will. Rod has to be got rid of because he is the one who keeps reminding his mother and sister of Faraday's social inferiority, and I don;t think he would ever have countenanced Faraday courting his sister. So I am leaning towards the trigger being the arrival of Doctor Faraday; maybe his obsessions did lead to the creation of a phantasm, but maybe he gave events the odd push himself, either consciously or not.

Although it is hard to tell Faraday's real motivation because he is the one telling the story, and no doubt twisting it to put himself in a better light, I don't think he loves Caroline at all. I think that in order to raise his social status and get his hands on Hundreds Hall, he is willing to put up with her plain looks, but only as long as she conducts herself as a member of the landed gentry should. He seems to actively hate her whenever he sees her covered in dirt doing housework like a maid, His obsession with the decaying house that is in reality a millstone round the Ayres' neck is senseless. It is not as if he is 'new money' riding to the rescue, like Caroline's ugly but extremely wealthy great-grandmother; he is a struggling doctor from working-class roots, who doesn't even own his own house. With him as head of the family and refusing obdurately to sell up, Hundreds Hall would have continued to fall apart, eating up the family's remaining capital and leaving them with nothing.

But he still got what he wanted in the end.
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June 2012

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