This section looks at the writing style used in The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.
This novel is a pastiche (imitation) of Victorian Gothic and is written in a very similar style to Dickens’ novels. Susan Hill effectively evokes the voice of Dickens and other writers using characteristic devices such as densely detailed text, evocative descriptions and language that is lavish and dense as any Victorian tale.
First Person Narrator
The story is told from Arthur’s perspective and Hill uses first person narration. This device is better than third as it ensures that the reader feels closer to the person that is narrating. A further benefit is that you know what the narrator knows and it allows the reader to see change and growth. However, the reader can understand Alice Drablow’s and Jennet Humfrye’s viewpoint as Arthur reads their letters and correspondence.
Susan Hill uses the technique of pathetic fallacy so that the weather often reflects the mood/human emotions of the characters. We learn from the beginning how weather is important to Arthur, ‘My spirits have for many years now been excessively affected by the ways of the weather.’ In London the fog is given the colloquial term ‘London Peasouper’ and is described as ‘menacing and sinister’ which sets an ominous tone for Kipps’ journey to Crythin Gifford. Furthermore, throughout the novel the sea frets or mists, great gales and howling winds add to Kipps’ fears when he is stranded at Eel Marsh House.
Susan Hill also employs imagery to create vivid pictures in the reader’s minds e.g.
- Metaphor (describes something IS something else) – ‘That great cavern of a railway station’ (pg. 33) is like saying that King’s Cross Station is an enormous cave.
- Simile (compares something by saying it is AS or LIKE something else) – ‘It was a mist like a damp, clinging cobwebby thing.’ (pg. 85) is like saying the mist attached itself to Arthur like a cobweb.
- Personification (gives human qualities to something inanimate) - ‘The wind will blow itself out and take the rain off it by morning,’ (pg. 35) says Samuel Daily to Arthur making the wind and rain sound almost like a human couple.
This is when a writer gives clues to the reader that suggest ideas/themes or things that might happen later in the story. There is lots of foreshadowing in the opening chapter which hints to the reader that the novel will feature supernatural events, “I was then thirty-five and I had been a widower for the past twelve years. I had no taste at all for social life and, although in good general health, was prone to occasional nervous illnesses and conditions, as a result of the experiences I will come to relate.” (pg. 4)