Old Mrs Chundle And Darkness Out There
The two short stories "The Darkness Out There" and "Old Mrs Chundle"
both deal with similar relationships, whilst at the same time having many
differences. The most pronounced similarity of the two stories is that both deal
with younger people’s relationships with an older person. Another marked theme
is that Hardy’s story concerns itself with the curate’s deception
(unconsciously) of Mrs Chundle, while in the Lively one it’s the younger
people who are deceived by appearances. Kerry Stevens and Sandra in "The

Darkness Out There" (from Sandra’s point of view) have an interesting
relationship, which develops throughout the story; at the beginning, Kerry is
seen to be quite immature and is looked down upon by Sandra: "Kerry Stevens
that none of...(Sandra’s) lot reckoned much on ... some people you only have
to look at to know they’re not up to much." This is quite a harsh view from

Sandra, taking into consideration the fact that she doesn’t really know him.

Sandra believes that she is much more mature than Kerry, "she considered him,
over a chasm, Mum said boys matured later, in many ways," and this shows how
ironic Penelope Lively is being concerning the relationship. For, throughout the
story, it’s Kerry who acts more maturely than Sandra. He offered her some
chocolate when she’d been yelling at him for jumping out of the bush as
she’s walking to Mrs Rutter’s, and he’s the first to realise the old lady
is not all she appears to be (" "I don’t go much on her." ") Sandra
bases her opinions a lot on appearances, and this is why at first she sees
nothing out of the ordinary with Mrs Rutter. This is also the way she is with

Kerry; while all the time we are led by Sandra to believe that she’s the adult
one (although all the time the reader knows this isn’t true) this illusion is
in fact shattered at the ending, when we see Kerry (from Sandra’s point of
view) in a different light. "Are people who help other people not always very
nice looking?" This shows how shallow Sandra is, with her immature dreams and
fantasies ("One day she’d have a place in the country... a little white
house peeping over a hill.") Lively, while all the time telling the reader
ironically that Sandra is the more adult, nevertheless through her writing shows
the reader the true scale of things (that Kerry is much more mature than Sandra
all along). Lively, by reporting the way Kerry acts and speaks in the eyes of

Sandra, shows how false the circumstances are regarding the youngster’s
relationship and the way the girl perceives it. This is similar to in "Old Mrs

Chundle," the way relationships are sometimes misinterpreted by those involved
with it. Sandra sees the relationship as her being superior to him at the start,
while all along it’s Kerry who has the guts to face up to the stark reality of

Mrs Rutter’s hidden past. The relationship between Mrs Chundle and the curate
in Hardy’s story is a misunderstood and uneven one too; Mrs Chundle, after
befriending the curate while he was out painting (a past-time she could never do
due to her social class and financial circumstances), believes she’s found a"real friend" in the younger man; whereas the curate views Mrs Chundle,
rather coldly, as a charity case. For example, when the curate goes to the
rector to ask about the old woman he’d just received dinner from he refers to
her as "a curious old soul", which is a rather emotionally detached way of
speaking about her, almost as if she’s some sort of foreign being! Another
point why I feel the curate to be so apathetic is the way he’s so quick to
judge Mrs Chundle after hearing from his rector that she told him a small lie
about going to church. Only after a few seconds of conversation, the curate
passes judgement when he doesn’t know the full story; that she wants to save
herself the embarrassment of not hearing a word at church due to her deafness.

This is an insight into how the curate’s mind works. We must judge the Hardy
characters more by the way they act and speak rather than into any past
flashbacks or mental workings revealed to the reader like in "The Darkness Out

There." This is because there are less insights into what the characters are
thinking in "Old Mrs Chundle" – we must rely upon Hardy’s