Robert Aickman Readers discussion

The Stories (with spoilers) > The School Friend

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message 1: by Simon (new)

Simon (friedegg) | 89 comments Mod
I read this story in the Dark Entries collection.

This story was, in some ways, quite unusual for Aickman in that there are some quite explicit references to something supernatural or overtly strange going on although pinning down its precise nature remains as elusive as ever. The narrative seems scattered with clues that enticingly hint at a meaning just below the surface but critical details are snatched away leaving us just short of enough information to put it all together in a cohesive manner.

The story seems to suggest that Sally came into this world through some form of inverted immaculate conception. She has a father but no mother (in the conventional sense). Her father, it would appear, had stumbled upon some method of producing off-spring in a profoundly unconventional manner. The details and nature of which presumably become apparent to Sally when she moves back in to the family home after her father dies. She then sets about undergoing some form of variation of the process in order to produce an offspring of her own.

One of the things that I find most strange about this story is that the protagonist seems to be directly affected in some oblique way, more directly than merely as a consequence of being Sally's friend. What was happening to Mel as she returned to Sally's house for the last time, when the boy in the street was shocked at the sight of her?

This is most definitely aimed at disturbing the reader's sense of reality, their sense of the proper order of things.

message 2: by Teddy (new)

Teddy G (teddy-g) | 6 comments "Her father, it would appear, had stumbled upon some method of producing off-spring in a profoundly unconventional manner."
Does it actually say that? I must have missed it.
I think I've also missed some other things here.
Sally seems to have been "cured" at the end, she got rid of the house. But what about the creature she gave birth to? Did she actually give birth? Mel finishes the story with "One day I shall probably go." does it have a deeper meaning than visiting her friend's new house? Is she the creature's godmother?
Why WAS the boy staring petrified at Mel?
Was there another theme in the story other than the supernatural one? at one point Mel passes judgment on Sally for never getting married, even though Mel never married herself. Also, is there a subtler lesbian undercurrent like in The Trains?

message 3: by Simon (new)

Simon (friedegg) | 89 comments Mod
Teddy wrote: "Does it actually say that? I must have missed it."

It's too long ago now for me to recall but I doubt it; this is more likely my own interpretation of what was going on.

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