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Narrative Narrative Techniques in 'The Woman in Black'

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Introduction

Unit 2709 Literature Complementary Study Susan Hill (1942 - ) THE WOMAN IN BLACK (1983) Whole Text Narrative Techniques in 'The Woman in Black' Susan Hill's eclectic use of many aspects of ghost stories makes her own story a typical one, which in the readers' eyes would work, e.g. having a 'sensible, rational' protagonist as well as even using titles of famous books for her chapters (Whistle and I'll Come To You, taken from M.R. James' tale Oh, Whistle and I'll Come To You, My Lad'). However, in The Woman In Black, narrative techniques are used the most successfully in terms of Susan Hill's representation of both the stages of fear and the protagonist, which I will look at in more detail during the course of the essay. The protagonist Arthur Kipps himself is presented as serious and determined ('the firmness of my resolve'). His naivety is also emphasised because when he expresses his annoyance at the secrecy of the townsfolk regarding Eel Marsh House, he feels that he is superior to Keckwick when speaking to him ('he must have recognised'). He brands his former self as 'rational, sensible', therefore showing evidence that he himself can sense a change within him. ...read more.

Middle

through the ghost of Jennet herself. The construction of the novel and technique of the narrator is such that the reader and protagonist's fear is increased and intensified in a series of powerful waves interspersed with periods of relaxation. The fear begins through Kipps' sense of 'isolation', from which he gets an 'unpleasant sensation' owing to him being 'far from any human dwelling', which happens when Kipps is sent on a journey north for his business regarding Mrs Alice Drablow's property. The narrator continues to manipulate the reader's emotions, however the next stage of fear is not encountered until the protagonist Arthur Kipps hears a 'slight rustle' and encounters 'another mourner'; i.e. the 'woman in black' for the first time. Through a rational explanation (by saying she is suffering from a 'terrible wasting disease'), Kipps is exhibiting a naivety and innocence by showing sympathy for her ('if I could be of any assistance'). The impact of the fear is therefore greater because it is more unexpected, and it returns when we meet the woman for a second time whilst Kipps is going 'across the causeway'. Here he no longer sees the woman looking ill; rather, she is wearing an expression of the 'purest evil and hatred and loathing' and in her eyes a 'desperate, yearning malevolence.' ...read more.

Conclusion

When the first supernatural happenings occur (the 'bump, bump'), Kipps gives a rational explanation yet again ('I told myself it was a rat'). When he finally enters the nursery, and sees all the children's 'clothes and toys' arranged neatly, rather than feeling fear he feels 'grief'; a true sadness and a surge of empathy. However the next stage of fear reaches its peak. This peak of the fear and manipulation of the reader's emotions occurs when tension rises and Spider falls into into quicksand; he hears whistling, 'yet (he) would have sworn it had not come from any human lips'. He experiences a breakdown of his rationality which is extremely frightening; he starts to wonder what is 'real' ('At that moment I began to doubt my own reality'). Thus, a strong way in which the narrator manipulates the emotions of the reader and fear is by giving us a hubristic protagonist, who is bound to meet his nemesis. In this particular case it happens in spasms and peaks, which builds up the fear. In conclusion, the narrative techniques of The Woman In Black are displayed in terms of Hill's eclectic approach. However, her representation of the protagonist as well as the stages of fear are where she uses her techniques most skilfully in terms of leading the readers to feel fear and become more drawn into the text as a whole. ...read more.

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