Hilditch is mad, bad and dangerous to know

Trevor uses narrative style to great effect on his novels, this essay attempts to show how Trevor uses narrative style to portray the character of Hilditch in Felicia’s Journey as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’. One of Trevor’s most interesting narrative style’s that he uses throughout this novel is free indirect style, he uses it for implication, not telling the reader too much all at once and occasionally not at all, but letting the reader think for themselves about the characters and events in Felicia’s Journey. Trevor likes to leave his readers with just enough information to get them started.

He then lets the story and characters develop without being overly descriptive or spoiling the freedom of interpretation that the reader is presented with in this story. ‘Free indirect style gets us immediately close to Trevor’s characters while keeping their deepest thoughts or fears unspoken. It is a means of concealment as much as disclosure. ‘ (The Guardian, 10 July 2004) John Mullan said this about Trevor’s narrative style in his collection of short stories The Hill Bachelors, Trevor also uses this style in Felicia’s Journey, implying all and saying very little.

Martin McQuillan in his book The Narrative Reader defines this narrative style as ‘A mode of presentation in which a characters thoughts and utterances are offered without narratorial mediation or tag but in the manner of indirect speech or representation. ‘ (McQuillan. 2000) Trevor make use of this style in Felicia journey for example on page 112 ‘It’s all down to the boyfriends mother, he hears again and experiences a measure of relief he is not sure why. The first unusual thing about Hilditch that causes speculation about his character is when he follows Felicia to the bus station and then waits for her there later. Hilditch lies to Felicia, the reader knows this, Hilditch does this to gain her trust, it does not seem mad until he tries to create the impression of having a woman living in his house as he mentions that none of the other girls have ever entered his house so why does he expect Felicia to.

He needs to gain her trust so he can carry on his hobby of adopting young girls, he does go a little too far though, Felicia is more innocent and nai?? ve than the other girls he has known, but just as helpless, if at the time a little less desperate. He pretends to have a great amount of concern for her welfare and even persuades her and pays for her to have an abortion, against her religion and her catholic upbringing, although being pregnant out of wedlock in the first place is against that anyway.

The reader hears about the other girls but is not told exactly what their relationship to Hilditch was or what happened to them. Later it is implied that they are dead, the reader assumes they have been murdered by Hilditch. The first time he seems dangerous is when he is sitting on Felicia’s bed, the description used here is particularly effective with the use of adjectives such as ‘hoarse’, ‘blubbery’ and ‘lumbers’.

At this point Hilditch seems to have become hysterical and the reader is almost certain the Felicia will meet a similar fate to the other girls in Hilditch’s ‘Memory Lane’ as he likes to call it. This is when it dawns on Felicia that the other girls that Hilditch has had are dead; “She knows the girls are dead”. After this dramatic period in the book, the atmosphere that accompanies the writing is calmer, though it implies that Felicia is indeed dead as the other girls are. ‘He feels as he always does when a friendship has come to an end: empty, some part of him deflated.

The reader is not exactly told that Felicia escaped or how she escaped but it is after a while made clear that she is in fact alive. Before the episode with Felicia in bed, Hilditch weeps, this seems unusual for a man about to commit a murder. Does he feel remorse for his former killings? Unlikely, as he has been so casual about them previously, actually when thought about, this is seen as typical for real life murderers, in the cases of Fred West and Harold Shipman, tears were expected and delivered.

Hilditch can be compared with these contemporary criminals who have been filmed by TV crews during investigations posing as the ‘innocent witness’ do they think their tears make them appear innocent or perhaps show them as having ‘heart’ when they are really ‘heartless’. Hilditch can be considered mad compared to Fred West. The kind of man who preys on young women, while trying to maintain an air of normality, and then believing himself to be ‘victim’.

Hilditch’s tears could also show him as infantile, representing his lost or wasted childhood through his incestuous relationship with his mother after the men stopped coming round. His relationship with his mother is the one thing he is always scared about, he believes everybody knows, that is why he kills the girls, he thinks they know when it is more than likely that they don’t as none actually state that they know he says he sees something in their eyes; ‘She has guessed, as Beth guessed, the first of the others to do so… t was there in all their eyes in the end’. Towards the end of the novel Hilditch, becomes hysterical, delusional and unquestionably insane. Felicia’s escape obviously throws him a little. He is not used to having his plans changed. Hilditch is very organised and likes to follow his routine. It worries him that he cannot recall Felicia’s face as she is ‘the one that got away. ‘ Her escape completely shakes his world, he is not used to it and it is the only thing after a series of murders that has been able to bring disorder into his convenient, cosy lifestyle.

This insanity and hysteria eventually leads to his own undoing as he commits suicide, which like everything he does is surprisingly organised with the back door left open to ensure that he will be found. ‘Hilditch is mad, bad and dangerous to know’ Hilditch is mad, he finally cracks at the end and descends into full blown lunacy, we don’t know why he is interested in picking up these girls, it is possibly part of his slight madness at the beginning maybe he is lonely or he craves someone to care for him in a way that no one ever has, some one to love him as a wife or companion would.

His insanity takes over him in the end because with Felicia alive to tell her story he will not be able to carry on with his life as it was, adopting young girls, gaining their trust hearing there stories and then killing them when they decide to leave, for an unknown reason which he believes to be their knowledge of his corrupt past. Hilditch is bad, he is a serial killer, possibly more through ‘heat of the moment’ decisions rather than carefully planned, synchronised homicides, though he does realise that these girls are likely not to be missed by anyone.

He lies to them, he does not tell them his name, and he tells Felicia that he has a wife. Hilditch is dangerous to know; knowing him is not quite enough many people may know him; it is those who become close to him that are in danger, only the girls he helps really ever become close to him and only one of those who ever became close to him actually lives. Trevor shows this through the novel by leaving many things unsaid he leaves the reader to make up their own mind about Hilditch’s character, motives and life the same with many of Felicia’s points. This is Trevor’s use of free indirect style; he implies all and says very little.