Strange Meeting is a novel highlighting themes about experience in war, love, relationships, friendship and hope. At the beginning of the novel, Susan Hill presents to us Hilliard’s family where we can tell that Hilliard is an isolated character feeling different from them, due to feeling patronised and pressured to being like his father, which is shown his mother’s comment remembered about his childhood: ‘you will be like your father, you will be a beautiful dancer’. Moreover, we see this in Hilliard’s first memory in the novel when he goes to dancing lessons where his mother says; ‘If you are going to do a thing, do it properly’ suggesting to the readers that Constance Hilliard has high expectations for her family highlighting her status and class which becomes evident when she takes Hilliard to the station before going to war, where Hill portrays a very formal, ‘graceful’ character as she is described to be wearing silk and cashmere. The characters feelings towards his mother depict to the readers a sense of coldness as we see the description of his thoughts being that he ‘disliked neither of them, but did not particular miss them’ suggesting that despite not disliking his parents, he did not feel close to them nor particularly loved them. Hilliard’s views on his mother before going to war remain quite plain much like the rest of his personality as they stand a distance away from one another, with Constance Hilliard’s back away from him. This kind of body language portrays awkwardness between the two characters. Moreover, we see that Hilliard barely knows anything about his mother suggesting a lack of communication between the two or a lack of interest from Hilliard which despite this Hill presents it as ‘He knew little enough about her’ conveying that he didn’t need to know much. However, we do see a slight change in the way Hilliard see’s his mother before he goes off to war as she appears to be ‘less of a stranger’ ‘almost closer, now, than Beth.’ This comes to a surprise to the audience due to Beth and Hilliard having such a strong relationship.
Hill presents the character of Hilliard being isolated by telling the readers that he felt ‘unhappy’ at home in part one of the novel, along with saying that he could talk to ‘no one’ as his family and family friends are shown to have optimistic views on the war, making Hilliard feel as though he cannot join in along with disagreeing with them. The first part of the novel is told through Hilliard’s thoughts and personal views on different people and feelings, which again signifies his isolation, presenting to the readers that Hilliard keeps to himself as opposed to talking to other people a lot. Despite Hilliard feeling distanced from the majority of his family, he does however have a close relationship with his sister Beth who he has been able to open to. We see this in the novel in part one when Hilliard goes into Beth’s room and Hill’s description of Beth looking across at Hilliard at the breakfast table, with instant knowledge of how he was feeling without asking, presenting a strong relationship between them. In addition to this, we have the flashback of them both in the sea where their expressions and body language speak louder than their words. Furthermore, this memory of his shows them both being childish with one another having fun, for instance when Hilliard pretends to drown enabling him to joke around with her. Despite having the flashback of how Hilliard and Beth once were, Hill presents a change in Beth which makes Hilliard separate even more from being alike to his family. The irony in Hill’s description of Beth’s appearance suggests that Beth looks like her father to take after him in becoming well associated with class with the man she is to marry along with becoming more formal with Hilliard in her letters that she sends whilst he is at war. Hill