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In a Glass Darkly
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2020/21 Group Reads - Archives > In a Glass Darkly - Week 2 (The Familiar)

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message 1: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1382 comments Mod
We've now reached the second story from In a Glass Darkly.

Who was Captain Barton’s “Watcher” and what was his business with Barton?

Why do you think the watcher warned Captain Barton from that particular road? And why did one of the watcher’s earlier letters say that Barton needn’t fear him?

What was the significance of Captain Barton’s “vision” that calmed him?

What did you like about this story?

What surprised you about this story?

Did anything disappoint you in this story?

What are some differences between the Watcher and the demon monkey from Green Tea?


message 2: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosemarie | 2898 comments Mod
This story was creepier than the first one, but still somewhat disappointing. Poor Barton didn't deserve what happened to him either, since the "demon" was guilty too.
I noticed that the serving man was enticed to leave the bedroom and Barton was left alone-another coincidence.

I do like LeFanu's writing, but these two stories are weaker than the works I've read-Uncle Silas and Carmila.


message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (tarnmoor) | 19 comments I agree with Rosemarie. Some interesting details about the nature of he watcher are raised when Barton visits the doctor -- but nothing is made of it except some very sketchy details at the very end. The facts that the watcher has shrunk and had presumably died from lockjaw are introduced, but not sufficiently developed.


message 4: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1382 comments Mod
Right, Le Fanu leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Why would he shrink?

And, again, it's ambiguous whether this was truly a supernatural event, or Barton had felt guilty and consequently gone mad.


Alice | 84 comments This is definitely untidy in the sense of ends being left loose, but I did so enjoy the appearance of the owl at the end of the story! So far we’ve had a monkey in story one and an owl in story two; I wonder whether there will be more animals, and if so what the significance of the individual animals might be to the collection as a whole. Aren’t owls traditionally (but where?) associated with death? This makes sense here obviously, but I wonder if there’s more to it than that. The portrait of a “fine old owl” taken in—charitably?—by the young woman to whom Barton is betrothed is striking.


message 6: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1382 comments Mod
They're associated with death in many parts of Latin America, definitely, but I think also some regions of North America and Europe.


Alice | 84 comments Hmmmn . . . Well, whether or not Le Fanu had the association in mind, it does work here.


message 8: by Bill (new)

Bill Kupersmith | 174 comments Enjoyed it. The notion of revenge for naval discipline seemed quite unusual. Given the state of Barton's nerves, it was hard to see him as a fiance, though.


message 9: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1382 comments Mod
Yes, this is true, but I guess this was a naturally nasty man considering the way he behaved toward his own daughter.


message 10: by Brian (last edited Oct 16, 2020 01:46PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Brian Reynolds | 732 comments So, if I have it right, this was the story by a :

- Narrator, who gives us the letters of
- Dr. Hesselius, who is transmitting the papers of
- Rev. Thomas Herbert, who narrates the story of
- Sir James Barton

I felt like I was opening a Russian Doll of narration. The story was alright, neither good or bad, though I struggled with interest at the start. I did think the writing was a bit more stiff and uninteresting than in the first story, maybe because it was Rev. Herbert rather than Dr. Hesselius. I found the afterward explanation story of the daughter/father/Watcher less than fulfilling. There needed to be a bit more oomph to give the reader more satisfaction.
EDIT: Nice to learn about the owls as a death symbol. Did not know that.


message 11: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1382 comments Mod
Wait til you see next week's story. There are even more layers of narrators.


message 12: by Deborah, Moderator (new) - added it

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4493 comments Mod
Lori wrote: "Right, Le Fanu leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Why would he shrink?

And, again, it's ambiguous whether this was truly a supernatural event, or Barton had felt guilty and consequently gone mad."


It’s been my experience in reading this author, he normally leaves things unclear as to whether it was truly supernatural or not. Maybe that’s the creep factor he chooses to use.


message 13: by Deborah, Moderator (new) - added it

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4493 comments Mod
I do think he’s a better novelist than short story writer, but thoroughly enjoyed it. Spiritualism was a big topic/belief during the time these stories were written. His ambiguity of was it supernatural or something else may have been influenced by spiritualism


Daniela Sorgente | 126 comments I found In a Glass Darkly free for Kindle on Amazon and so I am catching up with you.
This story ends with a lot of unexplained things and so I am a little disappointed. I don't understand the role of the watcher, he did even pursue Barton abroad! The only possibility is that he was the persecuted mariner. But in the end was Barton killed by his fear of an owl?? Or was the mariner in the room with the owl, how could that be? There are similarities with the first story: here too we have a haunting presence and the watcher, as did the monkey, does not speak to explain anything. Here too the haunted person is in the end killed by his own strained nerves.


message 15: by Rafael (new) - added it

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Lori wrote: "They're associated with death in many parts of Latin America, definitely, but I think also some regions of North America and Europe."

In some regions of Brazil is believed that when a owl makes its sound (I don't know what name it has haha) someone will die.


message 16: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1382 comments Mod
They wouldn't want to live in my building then. I hear the barred owls hooting all the time!


message 17: by Rafael (new) - added it

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments haha


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