‘The Woman in Black’ is written from a first person perspective, allowing the audience to discover things as the character does which also creates great suspense and emphasizes the mystery of the ghostly narrative. This writing method also allows the reader to vastly imagine what the character is feeling; it is conventional that they would be feeling overwrought emotions, I think this is because making the emotions the character’s feeling far more exaggerated it is easier for the reader to visualize, and it creates greater suspense.
Many other conventional elements of the Gothic are used in the novel, a major one being mysterious and suspenseful atmospheres, which are usually formed using pathetic fallacy; in this novel the use of wind is greater than any other element of weather, ‘During the night the wind rose. ‘ ‘A tremendous blast of wind hit the house. ‘ I think the use of wind symbolises The Woman in Black, because whenever her presence is near or she’s about to expose herself the wind increases, but when she disappears it seems to stop, ‘the wind had died down.
‘ Susan Hill has also reworked this Gothic element in the novel as there are some circumstances that would seem conventional to include pathetic fallacy but do not, such as the first sighting of The Woman in Black at the funeral of Mrs Drablow, ‘I saw a blackbird on the holly bush a few feet away and heard him open his mouth to pour out a sparkling fountain of song in the November sunlight. ‘ This is also shown when he discovers the mysterious gravestone ‘the fine clear weather still held, there was sunshine and blue sky again.
‘ Hill also reworked the Gothic element of having a woman in distress usually being threatened by a tyrannical male; instead we read about a man in distress, threatened by an oppressive woman. She is portrayed as the more dominant and powerful force because of the effect she has on him ‘for a moment I was as near to weeping tears of despair and fear, frustration and tension. ‘ She has emasculated him, fear has taken over him and the influence of The Woman in Black has greatly effected his emotions, ‘the sense of oppressive hatred and malevolence, of someone’s evil and also of terrible grief and distress…
seemed to invade my own soul and take charge of me, these were what I could no longer bear. ‘ Throughout the novel there is a liet motif of the pony and trap, although they are mostly perceived as an escape route for Arthur from Eel Marsh House, for example, his two rescues from Keckwick and Samuel Daily. It is also symbolic of a repressed memory the marshes have chosen to replay night after night. Arthur is so haunted by the sounds of clopping hooves and screams from a young child he describes ‘the sight of the woman in black…
then those sounds which had caused my fears to mount to such a height that I had lost control of myself and my senses and fallen unconscious. ‘ Susan Hill’s description of The Woman in Black is vividly described, her vast use of adjectives in this passage allows us to picture this extremely ‘sick-looking woman’ intensely. ‘Suffering… terrible wasting disease… extremely pale… thinnest layer of flesh was tautly stretched and strained across her bones… eyes seemed sunken back into her head.
‘ The language Hill has used here is very conventionally Gothic, and is typical language to find in a ghost story. It is clear that there are elements of the supernatural, mystery and metonymy and how the narrator is feeling overwrought emotions such as the sensation of Gothic horror. Some conventions have been reworked, the use of pathetic fallacy and the gender of the tyrannical character, but I think this adds greater interest and suspense because it may shock several readers as it is unexpected.
This however causes it to be more believable, especially in the period it was published, because it was thought that upper class men were too rational to have believed in supernatural and mysterious circumstances.