As a young boy, Dr. Faraday’s parents take him to see Hundreds Hall. It is a formative moment in his youth, and for the rest of his life, he remains envious of those who live there. Faraday’s mother made her living as a servant at Hundreds for some time, and his father was similarly lower-class. However, as a result of their hard work, Faraday went to a good college and eventually became a practicing doctor. Despite his improved social circumstances, Faraday finds that his position in life is not enough and feels he does not get the respect he deserves. He wants his patients to look up to him, much like he looks up to the Ayerses, but instead they see him as a social equal.
Toward the end of the novel, Faraday gets engaged to Caroline Ayers, and for the first time, he feels like people treat him with more respect. For a short while, Faraday holds his head high and acts proud of his position in life. However, a few weeks later, Caroline calls the marriage off, and Faraday is crushed. The reason Faraday gets so upset is not because he loves Caroline, but rather because he is angry he cannot ascend to the upper class. When Caroline breaks up with Faraday, he is more concerned about the fate of Hundreds (and his place in it) than he is with the state of their relationship. Without Hundreds, Faraday must remain envious of Caroline and people like her, while he continues to be one of the so-called common folk.
Ironically, by the end of the novel, there is not much at Hundreds Hall for Faraday to be envious of. The home itself has fallen into a state of disrepair, and the Ayers family is in shambles. However, Faraday still holds on to his love for the place; it has some mystical power over him, as he is willing to overlook its many flaws. Faraday’s strange attachment to the manor suggests the emptiness of class envy, especially if one admires the upper classes for all the wrong reasons—namely, the desire for material wealth and status.
Class Envy ThemeTracker
Class Envy Quotes in The Little Stranger
The story ran on, Caroline and Roderick prompting more of it; they spoke to each other rather than to me, and, shut out of the game, I looked from mother to daughter to son and finally caught the likenesses between them, not just the similarities of feature—the long limbs, the high-set eyes—but the almost clannish little tricks of gesture and speech. And I felt a flicker of impatience with them—the faintest stirring of a dark dislike—and my pleasure in the lovely room was slightly spoiled. Perhaps it was the peasant blood in me, rising. But Hundreds Hall had been made and maintained, I thought, by the very people they were laughing at now. After two hundred years, those people had begun to withdraw their labour, their belief in the house; and the house was collapsing, like a pyramid of cards. Meanwhile, here the family sat, still playing gaily at gentry life, with the chipped stucco on their walls, and their Turkey carpets worn to the weave, and their riveted china . . .
The road we had taken, too, was one I remembered going up and down as a boy at just about this time of year—carrying out the midday ‘snap’ of bread and cheese to my mother’s brothers as they helped with the Hundreds harvest. No doubt those men would have been very tickled to think that, thirty years on, a qualified doctor, I would be driving up that same road in my own car with the squire’s daughter at my side. But I felt overcome suddenly with an absurd sense of gaucheness, and falseness—as if, had my plain labourer uncles actually appeared before me now, they would have seen me for the fraud I was, and laughed at me.
‘Extraordinary place this, isn’t it?’ he murmured, with a glance at the others. ‘I don’t mind admitting, I was glad to be invited, simply for the chance to have a bit of a look around. You’re the family doctor, I gather. They like to keep you on hand, do they, for the sake of the son? I hadn’t realised he was in such poor shape.’
I said, ‘He isn’t, as it happens. I’m here on a social call tonight, just like you.’
‘You are? Oh, I had the impression you were here for the son, I don’t know why . . .’
‘You don’t mean that, Caroline. You couldn’t bear to lose Hundreds, surely?’
Now she spoke almost casually. ‘Oh, but I’ve been brought up to lose it. —To lose it, I mean, once Rod marries. The new Mrs. Ayres won’t want a spinster sister-in-law about the place; nor a mother-in-law, come to that. That’s the stupidest thing of all. So long as Roddie goes on holding the estate together, too tired and distracted to find a wife, and probably killing himself in the process—so long as he goes on like that, Mother and I get to stay here. Meanwhile Hundreds is such a drain on us, it’s hardly worth staying for . . .’
To think that all this time people had been watching us, speculating—rubbing their hands—! It made me feel fooled, somehow; it made me feel exposed. A part of my upset, I’m sorry to say, was simple embarrassment, a basic masculine reluctance to have my name romantically linked with that of a notoriously plain girl. Part of it was shame, at discovering I felt this. A contradictory part, too, was pride: for why the hell shouldn’t I—I asked myself—bring Caroline Ayres along to a party, if I chose to? Why the hell shouldn’t I dance with the squire’s daughter, if the squire’s daughter wanted to dance with me?