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Eustace and Hilda

The Shrimp and the Anemone, The Sixth Heaven, Eustace and Hilda, The Go-Between

trilogy novel childhood influence

a trilogy of novels by L. P. Hartley, published in 1944, 1946, and 1947, and as a single volume in 1958. Hilda is the dominant older sister of Eustace: the trilogy describes their relationship throughout their lives. The Shrimp and the Anemone (1944) takes its title from the striking opening image, an episode in a characteristically observed childhood seaside holiday. Eustace is a gentle, reflective child with a disastrous willingness to submit to the extrovert and ardent Hilda and an overwhelming need to gain her love and approval. The novel shows the influence of Henry James and also of Freudian psychology. The second novel, The Sixth Heaven (1946), opens with Eustace at Oxford, but neither financial independence nor the congenial atmosphere of Oxford can release him from Hilda's spell. Desperate to gain her approval, he encourages a love affair between her and his aristocratic friend Stavely, hoping that marriage will both fulfil Hilda and free himself. The final novel, Eustace and Hilda (1947), describes Stavely's betrayal of Hilda: having seduced her he abandons her. Eustace and Hilda are drawn even closer together by catastrophe. The obsessive, destructive nature of their relationship culminates in Eustace's death, seen as a sacrificial offering on his part, the only way in which Hilda can be released. The novel ends with a reference to the shrimp–anemone image. The trilogy, like the later The Go-Between, is remarkable for its evocation of childhood, based on narrative and incident rather than nostalgia, and its exploration of the influence of childhood experience on adult personality. But it is the spiritual dimension of Eustace's sacrificial pursuit of his sister's fulfilment at the expense of his own—and the complexity of his dependence upon her—that gives the trilogy its place at the head of Hartley's fiction.

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