The Woman In Black Chapter Summaries

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  • Created on: 24-03-13 18:23

Christmas Eve

The opening paragraph introduces the protagonist of the novel and its narrator. The 1st person technique used here identifies us exclusively with Kipps and his viewpoint. This is valuable later as we are forced to share his intense feelings about the events at Eel Marsh House without any opportunity to escape.  Immediately the narrator is shown to be slightly removed from the society around him He is telling the story retrospectively and tells it in such a way that the reader is always a step ahead of the narrator, having the hindsight which he lacked at the time.As the narrative continues and Kipps fills presents his situation we see why he should hold himself aloof in this way. This novel is told in flashback; the main events of the novel happen before the novel begins. This is known as a narrative frame.The name of the house in which Kipps is now living is Monk's Piece, the phoentic spelling of which hints to a finally-found inner peace. The description of the way the weather has been and of the isolated nature of Monk's Piece suggest a kind of, internal isolation. In his admiration of nature Kipps finds bliss in the contemplation of nature and his moral worth is gauged by their response to the beauties of the natural world. We now learn that "since those earlier experiences (he) had deliberately avoided all contemplation of any remotely non- material matters, and clung to the prosaic, the visible and tangible." (p13) Hints as to some traumatic event in Kipps' past continue to be dropped in this chapter, with reference to "the long shadow cast by the events of the past" (p14

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Christmas Eve 2

We learn that these events happened at Eel Marsh House subsequent to the death of Mrs Drablow and, despite his current happy situation, still have the power to fill him "with mortal dread and terror of spirit" (p15)

This technique of generating and building suspense is very Gothic. The family begin to tell ghost stories. Kipps describes these stories as wild and silly, yet the unease they create in him suggests that "the rising flood of memory" (p19) is bringing with it something to match or outdo these tales, which makes him feel an "outsider to their circle" (p19). His response to being asked to contribute a story is extreme; he loses track of himself for fifteen minutes in "a frenzy of agitation" (p21). All this is leading up to his confession that "I had a story, a true story, a story of haunting and evil, fear and confusion, horror and tragedy" (p21) and that the memory of it is "like an old wound" (p22). Kipps determines to commit his story to paper, as a kind of exorcism, thus setting up the context for our possession of the narrative.

At the close of the chapter all our expectations are in place, our hero has been characterised as a trustworthy narrator of sound values and suspense has been generated; we want to know what Kipps' much hinted at experience actually was.

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A London Particular

The fog described at the beginning of this chapter, though rooted entirely in natural causes, creates an ambience of darkness and uncertainty. That Kipps should begin his adventure on such a day is entirely in keeping with the technique of foreshadowing using landscape and weather to indicate forthcoming events and emotional states. The vocabulary chosen conjures up images of Hell  - "sulpherous yellow light... flares... red-hot pools of light... a great, boiling cauldron... evil red smoke... red-eyed and demonic" (p26-27) and there is specific reference to Dante's Inferno. In retrospect this language can be seen to reflect the personal hell he is shortly to enter, though it equally serves as a graphic description of a foggy November day in London at that unspecified time in history. In this chapter Kipps is told of his destination - Eel Marsh House, across the Nine Lives Causeway.The exact location of Eel Marsh - "in ____ shire" (p29) is not revealed, though a series of credible directions is given. This gives the advantages of an aura of reality together with anonymity, thus preserving maximum terror possibilities. The fact that access to Eel Marsh is determined by the tide increases the potential for isolation and decontextualisation. At this point in the novel Kipps himself is aware that the situation sounds fictional: "The business was beginning to sound like something from a Victorian novel" (p31).This adds to his credentials as a "sturdy, commonsensical fellow" (p26) We read "I saw that Mr Bentley had not been able to resist making a good story better, and dramatising the mystery of Mrs Drablow in her queer-sounding house a good way beyond the facts" (p31).Plainly he is not expecting anything out of the ordinary to happen.At the end of the chapter we are thrown somewhat to read of his fiancee, Stella, given that we know him to be married to Esme. However, subsequent events push this inconsistency from our minds until events resolve the discrepancy. The ground for future plot events is very subtly and economically laid in this way.

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The Journey North

In this seemingly uneventful chapter we meet Samuel Daily, who will become important later.It's not so much what he says in this chapter that is relevant, so much as how he says it; when Kipps teases him "you're not going to start telling me strange tales of lonely houses?" we read "He gave me a straight look."No", he said at last, "I am not." (p37) The straight look and the fact that the response was not immediate suggests that all is not being revealed.We are reminded of he geographical isolation of the area -

" I .. was feeling an unpleasnt sensation of being isolated far from any human dwelling ," (p38)

and informed of some useful Gothic architecure -

"a good wild ruin of an abbey with a handsome graveyard" (p38).

Kipps feels that Daily has been exaggerating

"the bleakness and strangeness of the area" (p39)

but this does not prove to be the case.

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Omg..... WOW thanks

Paul Dutton


A very useful set of clear chapter summaries.

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