So. Some of the questions Mum and I asked each other when we got back from seeing Stoker.

If you haven’t seen Stoker yet, this touches upon several plot points that you might not want me to spoil for you. If you have seen the film, feel free to puzzle along with us!

1. So…what do you think was up with the present in the tree?

This was puzzling at first, especially since we didn’t get to see what was in it until later – and even then, it was pretty obvious that what India eventually found in it, a key, was not what she was expecting. Eventually we find out what she was expecting – saddle shoes that she’s been getting every birthday, possibly since she could walk.

But who was leaving these gifts for her?

Probably not Evelyn, although it’s implied that she knew about this ritual. Was it India’s father, Richard? Or was it Mrs Mcgarrick the housekeeper? Or, in a twist, was it Mrs McGarrick, but acting at the behest of somebody else? We know she was keeping Charlie informed about what was happening as India grew up, and he seems to be aware enough of the tradition to have a box done up with yellow ribbon…

…or did he take that from Richard’s luggage?

2. Then what about the key, why was that in the box instead?

Eventually, we learn that the key opens a drawer in Richard Stoker’s desk, which holds all the letters Charlie sent to India – and a handgun.

Why would Richard leave those things for her?

Assuming it was Richard, and not Mrs McGarrick or Charlie. The latter two are pretty unlikely; Mrs McGarrick didn’t seem to know what the key would open, and Charlie probably wouldn’t have had time to get from two states over and switch the boxes without being noticed. Plus, what are the chances that he would have known what the key was for either?  So we decided to go with Richard, especially considering the contents of the drawer.

It’s clear Richard never wanted India to know about Charlie, since he never told her about her uncle or gave her any of Charlie’s letters, and he gives Charlie documentation and transport to New York in order to get him as far away from India as possible.

Yet why would he leave India the means to learn about Charlie when he was trying his best to ensure that she’d never meet him? Why did he never get rid of the letters throughout the years? Was he specifically keeping them for India’s eighteenth birthday?

3. Do you think Richard was trying to warn India, or leave her a weapon, just in case something went wrong with sending Charlie to New York?

Highly unlikely that Richard anticipated Charlie braining him with a rock, but the letters and the gun might well have been a strange coming of age present. Just in case. Richard’s relationship with India is a stark contrast with his behaviour towards Charlie – while he’s desperate to keep Charlie out of his daughter’s life, is it possible that he recognised the same traits in India that he’d seen in his brother, and sought to control them by teaching her to shoot and hunt? I was reminded of a few lines in ‘The Lovely Bones’ about a serial killer:

What I think was hardest for me to realize was that he had tried each time to stop himself. He had killed animals, taking lesser lives to keep from killing a child.

Did Richard, in installing in India a love of hunting, mean to give her an outlet where she could satisfy any urges that might emerge when she was older, getting her hooked on taking the lives of birds and animals to keep her from killing people?

Or was he, in an odd way, preparing her to hunt Charlie, should her uncle come a-visiting, trying to claim her?

4. Why do you think Charlie was so fixated on India?

We think that Charlie recognised himself in India. Even if Richard wasn’t going to tell his brother about his daughter, Mrs. McGarrick was letting Charlie know about how India was growing up, so Charlie would have known about her dislike of being touched, her heightened senses, the people that bullied her and the relationship she had with her father. Perhaps Charlie was reassured by Richard’s loving relationship with India, and imagined that, once he was out of the institution, Richard would accept him again and they’d all live together happily ever after, secure in their strangeness.

Charlie is rather delusional, but there you go.

Once Richard destroys that dream, and Charlie destroys Richard, Charlie is determined to rebuild it with India. He wants to befriend her, for her to let him in – not an easy task – but he also wants her to accept the side of herself that he believes is there, the violent side that he witnesses when she stabs one of her bullies. When he’s trussed up Whip, he invites her to beat the boy, and seems to take pleasure in how much she gets into it. Perhaps when Charlie kills Whip atop India, the uncle can sense the niece’s experiences of the moment?

Charlie thinks India is like him. But she is not like him, in that she’s shocked by his murders; in that, choosing between her mother and him, she kills him. (Unlike in the original script, where India remains fairly emotionless throughout, and kills Evelyn at the end as well as Charlie.) In encouraging India to beat and harm and kill, in giving her high heeled shoes for her birthday, Charlie helps India to metamorphosise, but in the end they don’t make the happy family that he was hoping for.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ellise says:

    Mrs Mcgarrick was acting for Charlie. I felt they were very clear about that. The key was so she could find the letters. Charlie wanted her to find the letters. Locked in that door was Richard’s secrets and Charlie wanted her to know. And India is like Charlie- they both have similar bloodlust- in any case India is worse of the two. She stabbed a cop at the end of it. And wouldn’t you kill your father’s murderer?

    1. I like your interpretation of the film, especially pointing out the fact that Richard had secrets as well! This definitely works as another way of looking at the events – Charlie wanting India to know the truth about the family and her father, even going so far as to admit that he killed him – but how did Mrs McGarrick and Charlie know about the letters and the key?

      Perhaps India is worse by the end, but Charlie kills the aunt to preserve his secret, and India stabs the cop, who’s suspicious of her, to preserve hers.

      1. Ellise says:

        He very easily gave up the information that he killed her father. In his mind- he was right, he did everything for love (you know that sort of crazy mentality- no doubt he is a psychopath) Mrs McGarrick was the nanny and care taker. She knew everything. Hell- I wouldnt be surprised if Richard gave her a spare key (for no specific reason) cuz she was his nanny when they were kids.
        And she really didn’t NEED to kill the cop. Shes skipping town right after theres a murdered cop. If anything she just killed him cuz she wanted to, she has bloodlust- she masterbated to Whip’s death.

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