The Little Stranger


Sarah Waters

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Themes and Colors
Science and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Decline of the British Upper Class Theme Icon
Desire, the Unconscious, and Manipulation Theme Icon
Class Envy Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Little Stranger, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Decline of the British Upper Class Theme Icon

Hundreds Hall, the home of the Ayers family, is a symbol for the dying segment of the upper class to which the family belongs. Following World War II, England enacted many social policies to help the poorer members of the nation, often at the expense of the wealthy. These social conditions created a paradox for people like the Ayers family. Although they are far from poor, they can no longer afford to maintain properties as grandiose as Hundreds Hall. However, they also do not want to sell their home and admit defeat. As such, the Ayers family ends up living in a massive home that becomes less impressive with each passing year.

When Dr. Faraday visits Hundreds Hall as a child, its stature amazes and intimidates him. However, when he returns to it as an adult, the home is in shambles, as are its occupants. The Ayers family sold many of their prized possessions and eventually they even sell a great deal of their land. Still, they refuse to move out of the home because their pride does not allow them to. Only at the end of the novel, after Mrs. Ayers’s death, does Caroline decide she must move out of Hundreds. However, before she can, she dies mysteriously, perhaps from suicide or perhaps from the supernatural entity that haunts the home. Regardless of whether Caroline’s death was a suicide, there is something in the house that will not allow her to leave. Her fate suggests that her social position—which is indelibly tied to Hundreds—cannot be escaped. Through Caroline’s seemingly hopeless fate, the novel suggests that the entirety of the once-proud British gentry are doomed to crumble into decay and irrelevance.

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The Decline of the British Upper Class ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The Decline of the British Upper Class appears in each chapter of The Little Stranger. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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The Decline of the British Upper Class Quotes in The Little Stranger

Below you will find the important quotes in The Little Stranger related to the theme of The Decline of the British Upper Class.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old. It was the summer after the war, and the Ayreses still had most of their money then, were still big people in the district. The event was an Empire Day fête: I stood with a line of other village children making a Boy Scout salute while Mrs. Ayres and the Colonel went past us, handing out commemorative medals; afterwards we sat to tea with our parents at long tables on what I suppose was the south lawn.

Related Characters: Faraday (speaker), Mrs. Ayers , Colonel Ayers
Related Symbols: Hundreds Hall
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

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 . . .

Related Symbols: Hundreds Hall
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

It was more than mere anger. It was as though the war itself had changed him, made an utter stranger of him. He seemed to hate himself, and everyone around him. Oh, when I think of all the boys like him, and all the frightful things we asked them to do in the name of making peace—!

Related Characters: Mrs. Ayers (speaker), Faraday , Roderick Ayers , Dr. Seeley    
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

‘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 . . .’

Related Characters: Faraday (speaker), Caroline Ayers (speaker), Mrs. Ayers , Roderick Ayers , Colonel Ayers
Related Symbols: Hundreds Hall
Page Number: 151-152
Explanation and Analysis:

Her voice faded, and we stayed without speaking until the silence in that insulated room began to grow oppressive. I looked again at those three queer scorch-marks: they were like the burns, I realised suddenly, on Rod’s own face and hands. It was as if the house were developing scars of its own, in response to his unhappiness and frustration—or to Caroline’s, or her mother’s—perhaps, to the griefs and disappointments of the whole family. The thought was horrible. I could see what Caroline meant about the marked walls and furniture being ‘creepy’.

Related Characters: Faraday (speaker), Caroline Ayers
Related Symbols: Hundreds Hall
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

‘It was the most sickening thing I ever saw,’ said Rod, describing it to me in a shaking voice, and wiping away the sweat which had started out again on his lip and forehead at the memory. ‘It was all the more sickening, somehow, for the glass being such an ordinary sort of object. If—I don’t know, but if some beast had suddenly appeared in the room, some spook or apparition, I think I would have borne the shock of it better. But this—it was hateful, it was wrong. It made one feel as though everything around one, the ordinary stuff of one’s ordinary life, might all at any moment start up like this and—overwhelm one.’

Related Characters: Roderick Ayers (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hundreds Hall
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Yes, you’re great chums, you and she, aren’t you? What has she told you? How frightfully disappointed I’ve made her? She’s never forgiven me, you know, for letting myself get shot down and lamed. We’ve been disappointing her all our lives, my sister and I. I think we disappointed her simply by being born.

Related Characters: Roderick Ayers (speaker), Mrs. Ayers
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Mrs. Ayres informed her that Roderick had gone away out of the county ‘to stay with friends’: that was the story she put about, and if anyone locally asked me about it I said only that, having seen him after the fire, I’d advised him to take himself off on a holiday for the good of his lungs. At the very same time I was taking the contradictory line of trying to play the fire down. I didn’t want the Ayreses to come under any sort of special scrutiny, and even to people like the Desmonds and the Rossiters, who knew the family well, I told a mixture of lies and half-truths, hoping to steer them away from the facts. I am not naturally a duplicitous man, and the strain of warding off gossip was at times a tiring one.

Related Characters: Faraday (speaker), Mrs. Ayers , Roderick Ayers
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

If Hundreds Hall is haunted, however, its ghost doesn’t show itself to me. For I’ll turn, and am disappointed – realising that what I am looking at is only a cracked window-pane, and that the face gazing distortedly from it, baffled and longing, is my own.

Related Characters: Faraday (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hundreds Hall
Page Number: 510
Explanation and Analysis: