“The Woman In Black” Essay, Research Paper
In the novel, ?The Woman in Black? evil is an important theme. We see how
evil is portrayed through setting, characters, plot and descriptive
Evil is depicted through the setting, place names and weather conditions.
The scene is set in the first chapter with the description of the happy,
festive meal which had taken place on Christmas Eve at Monk`s Piece. The
fact too that the weather had changed (the writer said) from chilling rain
and a low mist over the countryside which had lasted all the previous week.
The writer shows through descriptive language that there could be no outdoor
pursuits while the weather was so bad.Inside the house we have the same
dejected melancholy feeling because lamps had to be lit throughout the day,
the smell of damp in the rooms, the fires burning low smoking and
sputtering. Esme (Arthur`s wife) reacts differently to the weather, she
launches into Christmas preparations with a determined cheerful attitude.
In the opening, Kipps gives an idea that all is not right in his life and
his illnesses are a result of past experiences, which will be told as the
Fear intermingles with the festivities. Kipps was fearful of his memories,
?I was trying to suppress my mounting unease, to hold back the rising flood
of memory?. He describes how he would lie awake unable to sleep, sweating
and going over and over the events that had taken place. He tells how he
has been haunted and how he has suffered for years. He wonders if by
writing it all down as a ghost story that perhaps then he can be free of the
memory. But he then comes to the conclusion that he should keep it to
himself and prays for strength, peace of mind and a blessing upon his
family. He realises that for the moment he is in control of his emotions
but that it won`t last ?for, although I was in control of my emotions now, I
dreaded the hours of darkness that lay ahead?.(p.23). Kipps tells how
prayer helps him to come to terms with what has happened to him, ?As I
recited them aloud, a great peace came upon me?.
The scene is now set and the anxiety and foreboding has begun, something
sinister has happened to Kipps and we know that in chapter 2 ?A London
Particular?, the story of what happened to Kipps is about to unfold. He
relates being called to attend an interview with Mr Bentley and although it
was many years ago he can remember the smallest details of that day
travelling up to London.
Names of people and places now begin to create an atmosphere of evil ?Alice
Drablow? the house where she lived, ?Eel Marsh House?.
The fog surrounding London all help to create a sinister picture now he is
leaving the fog of London for the North of England, called Crythin Gifford
(a market town). Kipps felt cheerful that first night at the Crythin
?On the whole, that night with my stomach full of home-cooked food, a
pleasing drowsiness induced by good wine, and the sight of the low fire and
inviting, turned back carers of the deep soft bed, I was inclined to let
myself enjoy the whole business?.
The following morning he met Mr Jerome, the property agent who accompanied
him to Mrs Drablow`s funeral.
It was at the church where Kipp`s first saw the woman in black and when he
describes her to Mr Jerome, Mr Jerome showed great fear. He was on the
point of collapse, agitated and anxious to get away from the church and its
surroundings. When Kipps then mentioned that Mr Jerome was to accompany him
to Eel Marsh House, he refused point blank and said Keckwick would accompany
him. When Kipps suggested he remain at Eel Marsh House, rather than trouble
Keckwick to return him to Crythin Gifford, Mr Jerome advised not to remain
at Eel Marsh House but to return to the Inn.
In the first chapter, ?Christmas Eve?, we read of contrasts in the weather
(depicting good and evil). Arthur Kipps the narrator describes the
different kinds of seasonal weather
?sweetly scented and balmy with the flowers of midsummer, pungent with the
bonfires and leaf mould of autumn, crackling cold from frost and snow?.
Then he goes on to describe the weather of the previous week ?rain ,
chilling rain and a mist that lay low?. Visibility was too poor, lamps were
lit throughout the day, fires burned dismally low. This description helps
create a sombre atmosphere, one of melancholy and prepares us in some way
uncertainly which is to come.
Kipps goes on to describe how the weather has affected him,
?my spirits have for many years now been excessively affected by the ways of
the weather?. (pathetic fallacy).
This contrasts with his wife Esme?s cheerful preparations for Christmas when
Esme is determined to make it a happy occasion. Despite the weather, the
house is full of hussle and bustle with the family preparing for Christmas
?had it not been for the air of cheerfulness and bustle that prevailed in
the rest of the house?.
Again there is contrast between good and evil Kipps vivid memories of the
past and the happy family Christmas he is now describing. When he tells his
story the unhappy memories that were buried begin to haunt him
?That my peace of mind was about to be disturbed and memories awakened that
I had thought forever dead?,
His fear contrasts with the festive air of the house
?I went in, anticipating nothing more than a pipe and a glass of good malt
whisky beside the crackling fire, in the company of my family?.
He didn`t expect to confront his past that evening. Throughout the story,
Kipps refers to the fear that he sees in the people at Crythin Gifford
whenever he mentions the name Alice Drablow. When Kipps spoke to the
landlord at Crythin Gifford, the landlord showed fear at the mention of Mrs
?The name had stirred some strong emotion in him?.
Before Kipps gets involved with Alice Drablow`s business affairs, he has
never experienced fear. He describes how well he slept the first time he
stayed at the Inn, before he was confronted with evil.
?For I see that then I was still all in a state of innocence, but that
innocence once lost, is lost forever?.
When Kipps describes his time at the funeral of Alice Drablow, he mentions
the cemetery and the grave-side in such a way that suspense and anticipation
of evil is felt, particularly at the sighting of the ghost of Jennet
?she was dressed in deepest black in the style of full mourning?.
Although Kipps only swiftly glanced at her, he could see a strangeness about
?it seemed only the thinnest layer of flesh was tautly stretched and
strained across her bones?
Kipps described her to Mr Jerome as the young woman with the wasted face.
?The young woman with the wasted face at the back of the church and then in
Mr. Jerome became ?frozen? and then agitated, ?anxious to get away from the
church and its environs?. Kipps was impatient and annoyed at the hints and
clues given by other characters,
?I was growing impatient of the half hints and dark mutterings made by grown
men at the mention of Mrs Drablow and her property?.
Kipps believes countrymen to be more superstitious, more gullible,
unsophisticated and primitive compared to the cosmopolitans. The plot
progresses to Kipps travelling in the pony and trap to Eel Marsh House. To
get there he crosses the Nine Lives Causeway whose name is symbolic. The
events become more frightening as the story progresses. Kipps describes the
surroundings of Eel Marsh House ,
?To the east, sea and sky had darkened slightly to a uniform leaden grey.
The wind that came suddenly snaking off the estuary was cold?.
He describes the ruins of an ancient chapel ?all broken-down and crumbling?.
Thenthe fright of a bird with lots loudly beating wings and a harsh
croaking cry, ?it was an ugly, satanic-looking thing!?He describes the
burial ground and the effect it has on him ?Suddenly conscious of the cold
and the extreme bleakness and eeriness of the spot and of the gathering dusk
of the November afternoon?. Kipps then saw the woman with the wasted face.
Through the desolation and despair, the writer creates anxiety and the
reader becomes more agitated and fraught.
By the chapter ?The sound of a pony and trap?, the reader is experiencing
evil. Kipps believes Keckwick died in the marshes.
?I stood absolutely helpless in the mist that clouded me and everything from
my sight, I knew that I was hearing beyond any doubt, appalling last noises
of a pony and trap being sucked into the quicksands?.
Many of the sinister events took place at night such as the incident in the
nursery, when Kipps was woken by Spider the dog.
?There were no footsteps, no creaking floorboards, the air was absolutely
still, only the muffled noise went on and the dog continued to stand
bristling at the door?.
The descriptive language creates effect and builds up the suspense. There
are anti-climaxes which relieve the anxiety such as, ?Spider had settled
again on the rug?.
?It was a little after two o?clock, it was a long time before I slept?.
The climax come again when spider is ensnared onto the marshes at night
?but the whistle had been real, not a trick of the wind. Yet I would have
sworn it had not come from any human lips?.
It describes quite graphically how Kipps saved the dogs life but almost lost
?Once I plunged my leg down and it stuck fast in a watery hole until I
managed to exert all my strength and get free?.
At the end of the novel there is another climax, an unexpected one, the
death of Kipps` wife and child. Unexpected in that the narrator describes a
peaceful, happy Sunday afternoon in summer. He describes a festive holiday
air, stalls selling ice-creams, small boats being rowed, and a band playing.
He goes on to tell of the child and his mother enjoying a ride in the pony
and trap. It was a happy scene depicting good when suddenly Kipps sees the
ghost of Jennet Humfrye ? everything changed – good changed to evil
?All the world went dark around me and the shouts and happy cries of all the
Kipps describes the evil emanating from the ghost,
?Yet I felt all over again the renewed power emanating from her, the
malevolence and hatred and passionate bitterness. It pierced me through?.
There is contrast again with the evil ghost versus innocent children
?The pony cart came trotting back down the avenue, through the shaft of
sunlight that lay across the grass, with my dear Stella sitting in it and
holding up the baby, who was bouncing and calling and waving his little arms
Then suddenly she appeared (the woman in black)
?She moved quickly, her skirts rustling as if to step into the pony?s path.
The animal swerved violently and then reared a little, it`s eyes filled with
sudden fright and then it took off?.
The story finishes with Stella and the baby being killed instantly. Whenever
her ghost is seen, a child dies but in this instant Kipps` wife also dies.
In the final chapter, ?The Woman in Black?, Kipps suffers his last tragedy,
the death of his wife and child.
?They lifted Stella gently from the cart. Her body was broken, her neck and
legs fractured, though she was still conscious?. ?Our baby son had been
thrown clear, clear against another tree. He lay crumpled on the grass
below it, dead?. (p.159).
The character, ?The Woman in Black? (Jennet Humfrye) comes across as a very
bitter woman, she cannot forgive her sister, Alice Drablow, for the death of
her son, Nathaniel. She sees her sister as someone who robbed her of
happiness and motherhood and would never allow her to forget it. She
therefore took her revenge out on those living locally by haunting them.
Whenever anyone saw the ghost of Jennet Humfrye, a child would die. This is
how she took her revenge.
?It was she, the woman in black with the wasted face, the ghost of Jennet
Humfrye. For a second, I simply stared in incredulity and astonishment,
then in cold fear. I was paralysed, rooted to the spot on which I stood and
all the world went dark around me?. (p.158).
Susan Hill has used the theme of evil in the novel as if it was another
character. The evil makes the book effective, it brings fear and terror to
Arthur Kipps and those affected by the ghost of the Woman in Black.
The unexplained and the unknown is more frightening and for this reason I
feel the novel is more effective. It is believable because Arthur Kipps was
a calm, rational man who underwent a great change due to the evil he
Jennet Humfrye was so full of hate that she wanted to exact her revenge on
all those around her. It certainly is believable and with the elements of
evil throughout and the climaxes, it certainly keeps the reader engrossed in
?They asked for my story. I have told it ? Enough?.
The ending of the story is very dramatic and makes the reader feel that
Kipps really doesn`t want to say anymore and will be glad to put the past to
Discuss how Susan Hill tackles the theme of evil through setting, language,
In this novel evil is an important theme covered in a number of ways through
settings, characters, plot, storyline and through the descriptive language
Show how Susan Hill uses different place names and weather conditions to
create an atmosphere of evil, for example, the nine lives cause-way, the
mist and the fog.
Descriptive language helps to create evil. Susan Hill uses imagery,
(similes and metaphors of evil) when describing, for example, weather in
London, surroundings of Eel Marsh House and the ransacked Nursery.
4. Plot / Storyline
Suspense is built up through the plot. Suspense / evil is created by:-
Hints and clues given by characters, sightings of the ghost building up to a
climax. Climax is the near death of Kipps on the marsh.
At the end of the novel, an unsuspected climax ? the deaths of his wife and