Published: Bunty #1950 (27 May 1995) to #1966 (16 September 1995)
Sally Cartwright is going out with Harry Dennis. She’s really enjoying it, but then Harry starts acting as if he’s losing enthusiasm. Eventually he tells Sally he does not want to go out with her anymore. When Sally presses him over it, he snaps at her and tells her to leave him alone, he never wants to see her again. Sally is heartbroken. Her friends, who saw what happened, are sympathetic and tell her to “forget all about the creep!” To all appearances Sally is doing so and her friends admire her for taking it so well. Secretly though, it’s the opposite. Sally has turned extremely nasty over it all. She is thirsting for revenge and out to make Harry rue the day he dumped her.
So Sally starts taking every single opportunity to play dirty tricks on Harry at every turn. The trouble is, Sally just doesn’t know where to stop and has no limits at all. Soon Harry’s life is not just an utter misery because things are suddenly going wrong for him and he can’t understand why. He is also getting into trouble with the school authorities and developing an unjustified bad reputation as a troublemaker with the teachers, all because of Sally’s tricks. Many of the classmates also begin to think Harry is turning into a troublemaker and can’t put a foot right, and they become unfriendly towards him. But Sally never pauses to think about this, much less have any pang of conscience. On the contrary, Sally loves every minute of Harry’s nightmare. And whenever she sees signs that Harry is getting in good with his friends again, she makes moves to crush it and make him unpopular again, and does the same with another new girlfriend Harry tries to acquire.
Sally doesn’t even stop when the rumour goes around that Harry has an enemy. Some of the classmates believe it while most don’t and just think Harry’s trying to blame someone else for his own trouble. At any rate, Sally never thinks to quit while she’s ahead. She just tells herself to go more carefully whenever she has the inevitable narrow escape now and then.
Harry realises he must have an enemy but seems to be at a loss as to who it is. In fact, he thinks Sally is still friendly with him despite the breakup and even asks to date her again at one point. Of course Sally is just pretending to be friendly in order to make more trouble for him.
Eventually, when it is brought to Sally’s attention that she is the only girl in the class without a boyfriend, she finally decides it’s time to forget Harry and revenge and look for a new boyfriend. But at the Saturday market she can’t resist playing one more trick on Harry because she still gets full of anger every time she sees him. When she accidentally knocks over a handbag display, she foists the blame onto Harry. Poor, innocent, hapless Harry gets a telling off from the stall owner right in front of everyone while Sally watches with glee.
Later, Sally spots another boy in the market and takes a fancy to him, but he does not respond to her attempts to attract him. She assumes the boy is just shy – but at school on Monday she discovers it is because she has played one trick too many on Harry! The boy is Darren Walker, who is a new pupil and also Harry’s new friend and neighbour. Darren saw what Sally did in the market and reported it to Harry, so now Harry has figured everything out. Harry tells Sally she won’t have a friend left in the school when he and Darren spread the word, and he is right. Sally finds Harry’s revenge is sweeter than hers.
There is no doubt the title is a take on the movie title “When Harry Met Sally”, but the story has no bearing whatsoever on the movie. It’s a morality lesson on what can happen when revenge is taken too far. The story is also structured to present us with a question: are we still sympathetic with Sally by the end of the story?
The breakup at the beginning is set up to make us sympathetic towards Sally, along with the classmates who witnessed it. But does Sally retain our sympathies by the end of the story? Or do we feel she has gone too far and she’s gotten way too spiteful? Or do we feel she’s just carried it along for far too long, it’s getting out of hand, and it’s time for it to end? Do our sympathies switch to Harry and we wish he would catch her out? These are the questions we face as the story develops.
We must say that Harry was asking for some sort of revenge when he dumped Sally. It’s not just that he dumped her; it’s also because he handled it badly, even aggressively. The girls who witness it say he’s a creep and a pig. All right, so maybe he did not really know how to handle it and found it a very difficult thing to do, so he bungled it. As it is, our sympathies lie with Sally and we all cheer when she starts her revenge.
The question is, do we continue cheering for Sally? As Sally’s revenge continues, she does things that go way too far. Making Harry unpopular with the other classmates and even destroying his friendships are too much. But what really goes beyond the pale is getting Harry into trouble with the teachers and blackening his school record, which would in turn get him into big trouble with his parents for things that are totally unjustified. What’s even more disturbing is that Sally has absolutely no conscience about that whatsoever. There are no twinges of remorse that bite some girls in “revenge” stories. On the contrary, Sally loves it every time she hurts Harry, and has no regrets about anything she has done to him. She is glad she has made his life so miserable ever since he dumped her. Her revenge just goes on and on, and becomes protracted and spinning out the story’s length.
When Sally finally decides to stop, it’s not out of remorse or just getting tired of it – it’s the realisation that she needs to move on if she wants to find a new boyfriend. But even after she decides to stop, she can’t resist passing up another chance to strike at Harry because she can’t let go of her anger. And there is little doubt Sally would have seized more opportunities to hurt Harry if Darren had not caught her out.
So do our sympathies remain with Sally after this? Or have our sympathies switched to Harry? Does Harry become the sympathetic character in the story and we wish Sally would get caught out? How do we feel when Harry tells Sally he has found her out and calls her a nasty piece of work? It’s all up to the reader. That’s the whole purpose of the story and the way it was structured, including its long length of 17 episodes. The length must have been designed to protract Sally’s revenge and further test our sympathies and feelings towards Sally and Harry.
Whatever our feelings, we know there will be no problems with Sally being dumped in future – because no boy in the class will go out with her. After this, Sally is going to have a reputation among the boys as a spiteful bitch and they should steer well clear of her.