Robert Aickman Readers discussion

We Are For The Dark
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message 1: by Simon (new)

Simon (FriedEgg) | 88 comments Mod
It's been a while now since I read this but I do recall enjoying it although I don't remember it too well now. I think I need a re-read...

message 2: by Mandy (new)

Mandy (mandybrigwell) I agree that the ending is pretty unambiguous, but if this is a 'straight up horror story' then I really need to go back and re-read it - I'm left with so many questions I can't answer!

That's not a complaint; I like ambiguity and I like having to think about a story. I like it even more when a story worms its way into your thoughts and *makes* you think about it; that's why horror stories are so interesting to me.

What's your take on the handfuls of tickets her pockets disgorge? Quite a deal is made of these - Mimi keeps her hands firmly in her pockets, then specific details are given of one of the tickets, then the piles of tickets are gestured at, with the words 'There's nowhere for us to go now.'

Weirdness for the sake of it, or some kind of greater meaning?

James Everington | 44 comments I reread this again last night. I don't pretend to understand the train tickets thing fully, but I did notice an odd connection - the tickets ate left in four piles forming the corner of a square, and the way this is described is reminiscent of how earlier they keep pinning down the map with four stoned, which then form an empty square when the map is removed.. Aickman describes it this way three times.

As to what that connection means, if anything, who knows?

message 4: by Mandy (last edited Feb 18, 2013 04:17PM) (new)

Mandy (mandybrigwell) You're right: The first time Aickman writes: "The four grey stones continued to mark the corners of a now mysterious rectangle."

The second time is: "Again they left behind them four grey stones at the corners of nothing.".

The final time is when they are trapped: "Mimi had apparently emptied her pockets of tickets, leaving four small heaps on the dark carpet, one from each fist, one from each pocket; and was now sitting silent and apparently relaxed, but making no effort to help Margaret.
'Are you ready? We must plan.'
Mimi gazed up at her. Then she said quietly, 'There's nowhere for us to go now.' With the slightest of gestures she appeared to indicate the four heaps of tickets."

Well spotted; I'm still not sure how to interpret it, however.

message 5: by Simon (new)

Simon (FriedEgg) | 88 comments Mod
I've just re-read this story but I don't, unfortunately, have much to add.

What secret was it that Wendley Roper's Aunt withheld from her nephew and yet so fervently wanted to share with the world? What did Wendley Roper want to do with this secret, that apparently Mimi would have learned downstairs by now?

I found this blog entry that attempts to shed some light on the story:

James Everington | 44 comments Thanks for the link, looks an interesting site. Several new theories on the story, both in the article & the comments - none of them *quite* do it for me, but can't put my finger on why... Like so much with Aickman, in fact.

message 7: by Adam (new)

Adam | 2 comments I'm really bothered by the tickets because it just seems like it was poorly written and ham-fisted. And the story was perfect up until that point.

But maybe I'm missing something obvious about the tickets.

message 8: by Simon (new)

Simon Alexandet | 2 comments I've just read the story for the first time and loved it. I came away with the impression that Beech was in fact the aunt, and the hanged woman was probably a random imprisoned traveller like the girls, who lost the will to go on after years of waving out if the window. Have I missed the point?

message 9: by Adam (new)

Adam | 2 comments Beech was the aunt. But the tickets still make no sense.

message 10: by Simon (new)

Simon Alexandet | 2 comments Thanks Adam. Thought I'd completely dropped the ball on that one! (The tickets are a mystery to me too.)

message 11: by Lincoln (new)

Lincoln | 5 comments Just read this, superb piece of short fiction - of the Aickman that I've read, this is right up there with 'The Hospice' and 'The Inner Room'.
Is it obvious that Beech is the aunt? If it is, I need to re-read!(which I will anyway)
No idea about the tickets, but I did pick up on the recurring 'group of stones in a rectangle'.

message 12: by Lance (last edited Apr 30, 2017 09:09AM) (new)

Lance | 3 comments My personal opinion is that an Aickman story is like a dream. Typically, some things in a dream make sense, and some things don't. "Oh, I can see why I was dreaming about searching for the jewel" etc. But then other parts of a dream are opaque. "I have no idea why that kid I knew from 2nd grade was selling lemonade at my office." Dreams do not have a narrative arc. They often end without resolution.

If I approach Aickman stories like a dream, then I expect to understand the symbolism of some of it, and for other parts to resist interpretation. If I try to make sense of everything in the Aickman story, then I get frustrated and go crazy--just as I would with dream.

message 13: by Lance (new)

Lance | 3 comments Mandy wrote: "You're right: The first time Aickman writes: "The four grey stones continued to mark the corners of a now mysterious rectangle."

The second time is: "Again they left behind them four grey stones a..."

My take is he is drawing a distinction between a map, which tells you where you are and where to go, and the absence of a map, where you don't know where you are and where to go. In the first half of the story there is a map; in the second half there is no map.

Usually in Aickman the story begins conventionally. The reader feels a certain familiarity. Then the story crosses into a dream-like reality, where things become more and more unfamiliar.

Fraser Burnett | 7 comments I seem to recall a scene with train tickets in Elizabeth Jane Howard's 'Left Luggage', which, as I'm sure you'll all know, featured in WE ARE FOR THE DARK. An 'in-joke' betwixt Aickman and EJH perhaps?

message 15: by BC (new)

BC Batcheshire | 1 comments Hello, I'm new to the group and to Robert Aikmann's bibliography. I've been reading his stories this year, and was pretty confused by The Trains, so I stumbled across this group looking for definitive expository on this story in particular.
Seeing that there are, or at least were a year and more ago, readers who are likewise searching for interpretations, I joined and here offer my conclusion, for any future stumblers who find this thread.

I believe Beech to be a lover, and the tickets to be souvenirs from Mr. Roper's murders.
I think the waving woman was not merely one woman, but all these several women he imprisoned and murdered, and that the "secret" was that these women were requesting rescue from the madman keeping them for his pleasure, thereby exposing Roper's secret, not necessarily "the secret of the house" but certainly of its master and his perverse prison.
I think the significance of the four points of an invisible square are in Mimi's habitual formation of rocks to hold her map, and that she continues to do this with the tickets she had discovered, because of a psychological break.

The one aspect I'm certain of as a simple reader is the tickets are souvenirs of Roper's victims, and that their significance in the story is to illustrate his very prolific career as a predator, and that he was confident in his capacity to such an extent that Mimi was made aware of his intention.
I believe he was looking to upgrade Beech, and use Mimi in her stead as a willing accomplice.
He had shown every intention of seducing her, and keeping her not only for future use, but as a broken servile participant, like Beech.
This did not work, and so Mimi fled from him.

Fraser Burnett | 7 comments Excellent 'reading' of the tale BC! Isn't Aickman great? :)

message 17: by Charles (new)

Charles Cutting | 1 comments This is an interesting overview of the story by Doug Bolden, the analysis of The Trains starts about 15 minutes in:

Randolph (us227381) | 43 comments Yep, you pretty much got it.

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