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How is John Hilliard’s character developed, in the novel Strange Meeting

Most of Hill’s novels explore the details of the relationship shared between people. The setting of The Great War allows Hill to present the story of how relationships are created between people in tragic situations. Strange Meeting is a story about an officer, called Hilliard, who discovers love in the midst of the desolation of the Great War. Hilliard is the ideal protagonist to present a change of character when portraying themes of love, friendship and loneliness; he is like a blank canvas, therefore the reader is able to observe how Hilliard’s character changes through Hill’s use of form structure and language. Hilliard is a lonely and reserved before he meets Barton. When he returns to the western front in 1916, he undergoes a change from his original reserved to character to a more open character. This change is due to the influence of Barton, an officer he meets on his return to the front. Strange Meeting also addresses socio –historic ideologies during the period of the Great War, ideologies such as conservatism, liberalism and realism are explored in Strange Meeting.Hilliard’s reserved character is a product of the lack of sentiment he had in his childhood, although, Hilliard becomes more open and sentimental because of his meeting with Barton.“He had been born here. The windows were tall and blank. It meant nothing to him.””His room seemed once again as if it no longer belonged to him, the bed stripped, the top of the dressing table empty.”Hilliard has no sentiment towards his home in Hawton. The windows are described as “tall and blank.” The image of the tall windows symbolises the Bourgeois outlook of Hilliard’s family. Hilliard’s feeling towards the windows, which is a metonym for his home, mirrors Hilliard’s feelings towards his family. Hill creates an unemotional aura when she is describing Hawton. The strip beds and the emptiness dressing table reflect the emptiness of sentiment in Hawton. Then Hilliard goes as far as stating that he is a stranger in his own home. His statement completely removes him from any attachment to Hawton. The lack of sentiment Hilliard has for his family is due to the behavioural structure of British society in the early 20th century. Hilliard’s reserve is a product of his upbringing and his reserve is also a product of the expectations of British high society. Albeit, the language used to present the rest camp, the place where Hilliard meets Barton, is more beautiful and emotive.“The early mornings were beautiful”“There was nothing in particular to remember. And everything.”“A breeze came from somewhere rustling behind them, rustling the willow leaves like silk.”Hill uses scenic natural forms as a backdrop to Hilliard’s meeting with Barton to create a sense of easiness, and more importantly she creates a sense of change. Hill creates a romantic scene as she describes the “willow trees” and the beautiful “mornings.” She introduces romanticism into the novel in the rest camp. As a result of this an external sense of sentiment; which does not come from Hilliard, is also introduced into the novel. In the same way emotional expression is introduced to Hilliard at the rest camp where he meets Barton. There is a direct contrast between the dull, drab language used to describe Hilliard’s experience at Hawton and the vibrant, scenic imagery used to describe Hilliard’s experience of the rest cap. Hilliard feels more attached to the rest camp than he does to his home in Hawton. He wishes to remember “everything” about his experience in the rest camp even when there is “nothing” to remember. The natural forms of the rest camp also reflect the natural relationship Hilliard has with Barton as opposed to the artificial relationship he has with his family which is dictated by high society’s expectations.Conflict is created between Hilliard’s resilience to voice his emotions and the emotions Hilliard feels he can no longer reserve.“He thought, then, of all the things he wanted to tell her…….the dread of returning to sleep, the faces of men in his nightmares.”Hilliard meditates on telling his sister Beth about the nightmares he’s been having and the trouble he has getting to sleep. Hilliard feels he must let go of the reserve that has been bred into him. He must loosen the restrictions that have kept his emotions unvoiced. The structure of the novel portrays Hilliard’s struggle to express his feelings. The structure of the novel is loose because events occur in an incoherent order. Hill also breaks a series of prose with letters throughout the novel to loosen the structure and she introduces speech after many pages of no speech at all. Hill’s use of structure reflects the unravelling of Hilliard’s conservative ideals of holding back his emotions, although the structure manages to reconnect. Themes begin to flow throughout the novel. Events begin to occur without much deviation from the plot of the story as a whole. Hill’s use of anadiplosis: strings together sentences, and allows themes to continue throughout the novel. The structure becomes more restricted and in the same way Hilliard restricts the expression of his emotions. In this way Hilliard’s character as a whole is ambiguous throughout Strange Meeting; he opens up and he also to remains reserved.Hilliard instantaneously reacts to Barton’s open personality. Hilliard feels uncomfortable when he meets Barton for the first time because the way he speaks about his feelings is very peculiar to him. In the society Hilliard grew up in, it is strange for someone to voice their feelings. Hilliard feels that it is fine to think about his feeling but not to voice them.“To tell you the truth, I was frightened to death of you!”The way Barton speaks credits his unreserved character. He draws Hilliard into his conversation. He holds the subject of his sentence; his fear of Hilliard, away from Hilliard and the reader alike. He draws both the reader and Hilliard into his company by creating a need to learn more from him. Barton immediately draws Hilliard into a realm of honesty and safety when he says “to tell you the truth”. Then Barton shifts the mood of the novel when he says “I was frightened to death of you.” Barton gives an emotive account of himself in the first meeting he has with Hilliard, an emotive account of which Hilliard shares but unlike Barton he will not utter it. The informality of Barton’s remark is also warm and inviting as opposed to the formal coldness of the conversations he has at home in Hawton.“`Oh, well… It’s been lovely having you at home. ` He thought she sounded like a hostess speaking to a departing guest.Beth, Hilliard’s sister, uses a more formal style of language when conversing with Hilliard than Hilliard has when conversing with Barton. Her voice takes a professional tone when she says “It’s been lovely having you at home.” Hilliard likens Beth to hostess to present the lack of intimacy he has with his sister at this moment in time. The ellipsis in Beth’s speech emulates the gap that has been created between Hilliard and his sister. The ellipsis also evokes a sense of awkwardness in Beth’s conversation with Hilliard. Albeit, the exclamations mark, in Barton’s conversation with Hilliard, evokes a sense of excitement and a greater sense of expression. Barton becomes more intimate with Hilliard than Hilliard does with his own family. The hardship of the Great War produced change in the perspectives of many soldiers who fought in the war. Barton’s expressive nature conflicts with the nature of British reserve. British reserve is derived from conservative ideologies. The Duke of Wellington, a British general who fought during the period of the Napoleonic War, established a traditional, British sense of reserve in to challenge the expressive liberality of the French he was fighting against. In Strange Meeting Barton’s liberalist, expressive speech challenges the conservative, reserve of Hilliard’s nature.Hilliard develops a desire to be open and expressive because of Barton’s withdrawal from him. His newly established desire for intimacy is the greatest change in his character.“Hilliard, a pace behind, felt jealousy rising in him, he began to hate Glazier, but hated David, too, for giving so much of himself away to another”Despite Hilliard’s desire for Barton’s affection being spurred on by negative emotions; jealousy and hate, his character has developed from a person who wishes to avoid conversing with other characters, to a person who desires the conversation of others. He begins to feel jealous of Glazier when he sees Glazier and Barton enjoying Barton’s company more than he himself is. Hilliard’s distance from Barton is portrayed through Hill’s use of physical imagery.Hilliard walks a pace behind Barton; he is physically distanced from Barton, and is likewise, emotionally distanced from him. Barton’s physical distance also prevents Hilliard from seeing his face. Hill presents the demeanour of characters through descriptions of their physical nature, for example, Franklin’s expressionless face reflects his expressionless demeanour. Therefore, Barton’s face being hidden from Hilliard, denies Hilliard the ability to observe Barton’s thoughts and feelings, in other words, Hilliard is denied intimacy by Barton. Hilliard seeks intimacy with Barton, using an expressive understanding tone. When Barton speaks about the shame he feels because the war has hardened him, Hilliard replies to him with questions, with an undertone of rhetoric, in order to engage him more so in their conversation as well as to provide aid in dealing with Barton’s problem.These traits are a trade mark of Barton’s speech when talking to Hilliard. His understanding tone and engaging manner causes Hilliard to feel intimacy with Barton, and likewise, for Barton to feel re-open to Hilliard. Hilliard’s desire for intimacy is provoked by the temporal loss of his highly valued friend, Barton. Hilliard’s strategy is product of his adopting Barton’s understanding, open nature. The change in Hilliard’s character is representative of the rapid change in British society, following the end of the Great War. Upper classed officers began to mix with the lower class ensigns, during the war effort. The two class’s endured hardships together and through this friendship between men of different classes began sprout. The upper class and lower class were brought together through events such as memorials for their fallen comrades. The class boundary was not broken; though slight cracks were made within it as the Great War encouraged members of different class’s to mix for the war effort.In conclusion Hill presents Hilliard’s character through Barton’s introduction into the novel. The reader is able to compare Hilliard’s manner with Barton’s, and throughout the novel, the difference between the two begins to diminish. Hilliard, upset by the lack of intimacy at Hawton, seeks solitude from intimate friendships, although, when he befriends Barton, he begins to value friendship, and at the loss of it he develops a desire for intimacy, in the same way Barton desires to be intimate with Hilliard in their first meetings. Hilliard’s character change is also be presented through Hill’s use of language, the reader begins to see traits of Barton’s expressiveness of speech in Hilliard’s speech. Also Hill uses imagery to present the beauty in the discovery of Hilliard’s new friendship and also to present the coldness of his home in Hawton.

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