THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF BETRAYAL
Sure, we'll buy that Jennet was betrayed. Her sister forcibly took away her only child and then allowed—at least from Jennet's perspective—him to die in a horrible accident. Way to take care of your nephew, Alice. But The Woman in Black complicates the theme of betrayal. Did Alice really betray Jennet, or was she just trying to provide Nathaniel with a better life? If the accident was no one's fault, could it really be called a betrayal? And what kind of bonds of trust were broken when little Joseph died? Did Jennet betray Arthur—or was he simply betrayed by his sense that the world is a reasonable, rational place?
THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF ISOLATION
Since The Woman in Black is more or less set in the middle of nowhere among bogs and fogs, it makes sense that a lot of the book is basically a how-to guide on being scared and alone. In the book, Arthur finds himself literally separated from the rest of society when he arrives at Eel Marsh House, which is cut off from the mainland when the tide rises. And then when he finally gets back to London and a semblance of normal life, he finds himself alone even with his new family—since he can never share with them the horrors of his youth. Do you think he's starting to feel some more sympathy with Jennet? fair, rational place?
THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF REVENGE
To Jennet, revenge is a dish best served cold... or hot, or on the side, or fried up in a tasty hash, or pretty much any way she can get it. What we're saying is that this chick likes revenge. Even though her son Nathaniel's death was no one's fault, she's super cheesed at the injustices that have been piled on her. But she's not content to stew in her own hatred. In death, she takes it out on other people's children—and in a final, heartbreaking twist, on Arthur as well. But will that be enough for her?
THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF FEAR
Talk about Fright Nights. This is one haunted house that even thrill-seekers are going to want to avoid. The Woman in Black is interested in a lot of things—nature, the Sublime, revenge—but it's definitely interested in fear. What causes it? Who feels it? What does it prompt us to do? Is it just a fun emotion to evoke while we're sitting safely by the fire, or does it have a more primitive and profound purpose? And why doesn't Arthur obey his lizard brain and get himself out of Crythin Gifford before it's too late?
THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF APPEARANCES
This isn't one of those horror stories where things aren't always what they seem, and Jennet is no disembodied ghost going bump in the night. She's fully embodied, with eyes, clothes, and skin—even if that skin does look like bone. In The Woman in Black, appearances matter. From Sam Daily's beefy hands to the gaunt, empty house, what's outside gives us a pretty good clue to what's inside. And it's not always good.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF MEMORY AND THE PAST
The Woman in Black is one long trip down memory lane, but it's not the memory lane that happens to be lined with rose bushes and chirping birds and lazy afternoons at the beach. It's more a memory lane that's lined with boggy marshes and skeletons. Not so pleasant. The whole tale of the woman in black is one that will live forever in Arthur's memory, for better or for worse (hint: it's totally for worse).
THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF THE SUPERNATURAL
What's more supernatural than ghosts and phantom noises and self-rocking chairs? The Woman in Black is chock-full of creepy, inexplicable details that point to one thing: the existence of ghosts. And it doesn't leave us any room for doubt. Unless—we're just going to throw this out there—unless the whole story is a way for Arthur to make sense of the otherwise senseless deaths of his wife and child. Could that be possible?
THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF MADNESS
We can come up with a word or two for Jennet Humfrye, but "sane" isn't one of them. In The Woman In Black, her anger and despair actually make her go crazy—so crazy that she wants to destroy everyone. And confronting the reality of her ghost makes Arthur go a little crazy, too, or at least feel like he's going crazy. Wandering around a big haunted house will do that to a guy.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF MAN AND THE NATURAL WO
Good old Mother Nature plays a huge role in The Woman in Black. The crazy, murderous kind of mother, like Jennet. He may come from London, where everything is man-made and contained, but out in the countryside Arthur's on his own and left to the power of the elements. The bleak, powerful, indifferent elements. This might even be scarier than the ghost.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK THEME OF EXPLORATION
Even though Arthur is shaking in his boots throughout his whole miserable trip to Crythin Gifford and Eel Marsh House, he's still on a quest to find the truth. The Woman in Black gives us plenty of mysterious loose ends, and Arthur is the slightly terrified man for the job. He has to both literally and metaphorically explore Eel Marsh House and its former inhabitants to find out the who, what, where, and why of Crythin Gifford's haunted past.