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.