‘The ending of “The Little Stranger” causes a variety of responses in the reader. Having read the novel what is your response to the ending?'

Short essay about one response to the ending of 'The Little Stranger' by Sarah Waters

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`The ending of "The Little Stranger" causes a variety of responses in the reader.
Having read the novel what is your response to the ending?
My immediate reactions to the ending of "The Little Stranger" were, regrettably, those of
confusion, annoyance and astonishment. Throughout the duration of the book, I had been
eagerly awaiting the spectacular last minute twist in the plot leading to the conclusion of
the mystery by either a rational or spiritual explanation. Naturally, I had assumed that the
increasing number of mysterious circumstances during the novel must surely lead to some
sort of definite conclusion. However, I was disappointed to discover that no explanation was
given for many of the events.
For example, the `scorch marks' found around Roderick's room precursory to the fire.
These marks were frequently mentioned by the characters, and seemed to feature as a
large part of Roderick's experiences/hallucinations. However, a reason for the existence of
these marks was never really offered. Also, the occasion on which Gyp `bit' Gillian
Baker-Hyde was never truly elucidated. There was hinting given by Betty that the bite was
linked to the supernatural side of the story: `the bad thing, whispering to Gyp [...] or
nipping him.' but this was only briefly mentioned and as the book was from Dr. Faraday's
point of view, his supernatural disbelief quickly stamped out many of Betty's suggestions
throughout the book, this among them.
Other unsolved occurrences include; the `hallucinations' of Roderick; the mysterious fires,
especially the one springing up behind Roderick; the ringing of the telephone; the ringing of
the servant bells; the banging and tapping on the walls; the whistling of the speaking tube;
the `S SS SSSS SS S SS SSS' marks hidden around the house, seeming to come from
`underneath the wallpaper'; the flapping coming from the dressing room; the
`hallucinations' of Mrs. Ayres; the mysterious wounds contracted by Mrs. Ayres, one right
before Dr. Faraday's eyes; Mrs. Ayres' `suicide'; Caroline's `suicide'.
My immediate thoughts were that either the author had carefully thought out some
conclusion to these events yet neglected to share it with her readers, preferring to leave
miniscule `clues' behind for the reader to piece together themselves, leaving the story on a
confusing cliff hanger, or she had thought of no explanation for the amazing and ridiculous
concoction of occurrences that she had thrown together in `The Little Stranger'.
However, I later realised that several conclusions were hinted at, leaving the reader to
make up their minds for themselves. The idea that the whole book was a gradual
hallucination, built up by paranoia and leading to the suicides of two of the family members
and the lunacy of one was the official verdict given in court. However, I couldn't fail to
notice that this idea, although `supported' officially by Dr. Faraday, was somewhat
ridiculed, not obviously, but perhaps subconsciously by the author. It was suggested that
Roderick had started the fires as a result of hallucinations but somehow this theory didn't
ring true.

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The idea of spiritual interference was also strongly supported throughout the book, even if
not by the viewpoint of the protagonist, Dr. Faraday. There were several ideas suggested by
the characters. Perhaps there was a poltergeist at large? Maybe Susan's ghost was haunting
the house? Possibly Caroline's soul had somehow divided and a part of it was harming her
family or Betty harboured some kind of spiritual power.…read more

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I really do wish that the story
actually was resolved in such a fantastic way as to live up to the spectacular and unnerving
suggestions and suspense in the earlier phases of the book.…read more


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