By now we are well into The Servants by M.M. Smith. Our protagonist, Mark, is 11 years old and unhappy. Having just relocated to Brighton from London, he has no friends and spends the rainy, chilly days skateboarding by himself. Full of resentment against his new stepfather, David, and confused by his mother's illness, he meets an old lady who unlocks for him a bygone era in her basement flat in the 200-year-old house David owns.
From the cover design by James L. Iacobelli, to the references in the book, keys are an important motif in the story. Mark usually lets himself into David's house, which does not feel like home to him, with his own set of keys. The old lady uses her keys to let herself into the tiny apartment which is her home. The large key opens the door to the secret rooms of the servant's quarters:
"She fitted the key into its lock and turned it with an apparent effort. It made a loud, hollow sound, like a single horse's hoof landing on the road. She turned the knob and pushed, and the door opened away from her, slowly receding, without any sound at all" (p. 37).
Why are keys important in the story? What might they symbolize? Please share any insights you may have.
Although Mark is the narrator, the story opens with the old lady. Why is that? What is significant about the old lady's thoughts on the body and on aging?
A last question (or two) until we meet again — do you like or dislike Mark? What is your perception of David so far?