Examine the figure of the outsider in any contemporary British work of fiction.
Any outsider in contemporary British fiction, and indeed fiction in general, is normally significant because of the catalytic role that they usually play within the text. Dr. Faraday of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger is no exception to this rule. However Faraday, in the role of ‘the outsider’ is responsible for a variety of functions and purposes within the novel which will be the focus of this essay.
Faraday’s primary role in the text is the narrator; all of the strange occurrences that happen in Hundreds Hall are told from his perspective. As an ‘outsider’ he never directly witnesses any of the events which means the reader is left with a third hand account of the goings on. However, as the character is not directly involved, he shares the reader’s distance from the happenings meaning he, with the reader, is able to investigate with a reasoned approach.
It is Faraday’s shared scepticism of the ‘supernatural explanation’ for the events that occur at Hundreds Hall that make him a part of the ‘fantastic’ nature of Waters’ novel. A fantastic text in the words of Tzvetan Todorov must:
‘...oblige the reader to consider the world of the characters as a world of living persons and to hesitate between a natural and a supernatural explanation of the events described. Second, this hesitation may also be experienced by a character; thus the reader’s role is so to speak entrusted to a character...’
The Little Stranger fulfils the criteria of ‘the fantastic’ which is having events that cannot be explained under the laws of reality as we know it. Faraday becomes an extension of the reader in the sense that he deliberates over what has happened in the same manner that they would. Faraday is always searching for the scientific explanation; in the same way that the reader, when presented with this constructed world which resembles their own reality, will try to seek out a rational answer.