The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

There is a very crucial interpretation I took from The Little Stranger which I will hint at but not reveal. I am going to try and write less ‘everything that happened in the book and in my life and adjacent to my life while I was reading it’ reviews and more proper ones.

There is a lot about one’s perspective as an outsider and the outsider’s interpretation of ownership. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve decided I am going to pursue what I want without any trace of guilt and not care much what gets in my way.

Similarly, Dr. Faraday, the protagonist of the story, imagines that ownership and the status ownership would grant him is more important than anything else. I have read haunted house novels where the house possesses people with their want of it—not just ownership but belonging and can think of no other novel where that fierce, destructive need for having a place in the world so drives the novel other than The Haunting of Hill House.

Only here, the purpose of that need is a little clearer. You are meant to read this as an examination of the cost of class systems but there is also a very subtle treatment of what it is to be female and be expected to want a very specific set of options. Though I would argue class is more important here, as when the protagonist is denied what he wants and becomes not so altruistic, after all, and begins to fight dirty, you sense the reason his methods are thwarted is because he is of a lower class than Caroline.

Throughout the novel, Dr. Faraday refuses to believe in a supernatural explanation and this rejection seems less and less rational as the book goes on to a very specific purpose. Without giving anything a way, I will note it’s interesting how you view him less as a rational male and more as someone who doesn’t wish to confront a force which really could deny his entrance into Hundreds Hall. If the house is haunted, he may have to face relinquishing his claim.

Someone complained about the title being somewhat misleading and all I will say in response to that (again because of spoilers) is I think Little Stranger is meant as the wanting of a child which, like the protagonist, cares only about the object of that desire. As the book wears on, Dr. Faraday’s pretenses of caring about anyone (even Caroline) fall away and we see him for what he really is and that’s far scarier than any specter.

Though I will also mention that, like all well-crafted tales, you are told what is to come in the first few pages. The first few pages reveal exactly what need for possession is at the heart of Dr. Faraday’s character and how he never really outgrows the childish destructiveness that doesn’t care who he hurts as long as he can have what he longs for.

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