Strange Meeting Essay-Use of letters

Explore the ways in which Susan Hill uses letters in her novel ‘Strange Meeting’

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Ann Zaheer Due: 30.10.14
Explore the ways in which Susan Hill uses letters in her novel `Strange
At the time of the First World War, letters were one of the few forms of
communication that soldiers had with their families. Therefore they are integral
in revealing information about a character that would not otherwise be apparent
in narrative alone. Susan Hill puts the letters directly in the prose so as to give
the reader unfettered access into the personal lives of the soldiers and
uncovering more of their character.
Susan Hill uses letters in her novel to explore and to an extent,
hyperbolise the relationships between characters. Hilliard's letter to his mother
is very brief and distant, `I'm settling down quite well here'. The letter was also
somewhat superficial and did not discuss anything of meaning. This greatly
contrasts many of the letters sent home by the men in the trenches to their
family members, which were heartfelt and sincere `I do love you with all my
heart and realise I have one of the best wives in the world'1 . This makes evident
the distance between Hilliard and his mother, so far apart, in the midst of war,
yet Constance Hilliard does not express any concern or anguish for her only son.
Hill juxtaposes Hilliard's letters home with Barton's letters to his family.
Barton's letters are long and thoughtful, detailing his experiences and feelings.
`You would like it here...I'm perfectly happy' this is Barton's attitude in his first
letter, as he has not yet been faced with the realities of war representing the
many young soldier freshly out of school that joined the war naively thinking it
was going to be fun and glorious war. Susan Hill uses David's letters home to
bring his change in perspective to the fore and make the affects of warfare all the
more apparent. As shortly after we begin to see his realisation that he is in fact in
the middle of a not so glamorous war, when he expresses what a `terrible place'
Feuvry is. A little while before Barton is face with a `dead German pilot in the
burned-out plane'; however he is far more affected with Feuvry. This again is a
reflection of his home life and upbringing. He is a very family-centric and values
community. That is to say the Pilot signified War and was soldier, however the
ruined village highlight that it wasn't just soldiers fighting but families were
affected and homes were destroyed. Barton's subsequent letters become a little
more cheerful showing that he is beginning to settle and is beginning to harden
against the horrific images of War. He discusses his home life and family matters
as well as mentioning Hilliard often `I cannot possibly have another godchild...I
told John about it'. This is very similar to Raleigh in R.C. Sherriff's Journey's End,
wherein he often tells his sister about Stanhope his commanding officer and
childhood friend. Both Raleigh and Barton are very young and new to the War;
their close comrades in arms, Stanhope and Hilliard are both hardened
characters due to their experiences of the War.

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Ann Zaheer Due: 30.10.14
From Beth's letter to Hilliard we can surmise that the two siblings have
grown apart and are very different; both have changed greatly; a change effected
by their environments. Her letter was `so brisk and cool and distant' much like
their relationship. Even though they were close once Beth has turned out very
much like Constance Hilliard--Shallow and vapid.…read more


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