In this essay I will critically evaluate five main aspects between being human and a ghost in the novel, ‘The Woman in Black’. I will cover the differences within: relationships, methods of interaction, appearance, movements and emotions. I will evidence how the author portrays the human characters and the ghost and to also draw upon the dog Spider, all of which are used to enhance the atmosphere and feelings within her novel. Relationships There are several relationship differences between the ghost and the humans.This is shown in the opening chapter by Arthur as he describes his ffection for his second wife Esme, and states ‘I would not have wished for anything to ruffle the surface of that calm, untroubled sea’.
The author has used this metaphor to strongly describe to the reader how happy and fulfilled Arthur is within his life. In chapter three, Arthur meets with a stranger, Mr Daily. They converse and, through this interaction, they realise they have a connection with the deceased, Mrs Drablow. Arthur establishes that he may be the only one at the funeral when Mr Daily mentioned that Mrs Drablow lived alone and may have made her ‘grow eccentric’.Arthur being a rational man expresses you’re not going to start telling me strange tales of lonely houses? ‘, Mr Daily tells him ‘No ….
… I am not.
‘ The reader may well be thinking that something sinister has been implied and that Arthur will have to find out for himself the implications behind Mr Daily’s response. In contrast to this, during chapter four, Arthur has his first sighting of the woman in black in the graveyard. She is far away from the others during the funeral and is ‘quite alone’ making contact with no one.
At first Arthur feels she is a sickly character and needs assistance, not realising who she really is.The author is careful not to give too much away at this point, but you get a sense of ‘between worlds’, as Arthur looks up to see a ‘blackbird on the holly bush’ he then turns to find the woman in black has gone. She does not draw attention to herself, as she disappears ‘just as unobtrusively as she had arrived’. She was still and quiet and did not communicate verbally, but she was communicating all the same; her presence, her apparel and her features, giving to atmospheric feelings, that something is not quite right.
The reader can guess that this may be supernatural. Methods of InteractionWhilst humans use their voices, facial expressions and other physical methods to communicate, the ghost says nothing audible, nothing that is understandable. The ghost uses objects and sounds to physically interact with the humans. For example, in chapter four, Arthur is alerted to her presence by ‘some slight rustle’ behind him in the graveyard.
This causes him to turn and see his first sighting of the woman in black.Other physical methods of interaction are heard in chapter six when Arthur hears a pony and trap, along with the cries from a child, ‘unmistakable clip- clop….. rumble and creak of the trap.
a terrified sobbing…
from a child’ Arthur felt chilled and horrified. After being exposed to these events, not once, but several times during his stay, he starts to question his beliefs about ghosts and the supernatural. I feel the ghostly events are now doing their work, managing to get his attention, making him doubt his logic and to think about what may have happened in the past. The dog in the story, Spider, is able to communicate his feelings to Arthur.
For example in chapter nine, during his stay in Mrs Drablow’s house, Arthur was comforted by Spider’s ‘gentle breathing’ while settling down to sleep.Later he was awoken during the night when he was alerted by Spider who was standing by the bedroom door, her ‘ears were pricked up, her tail erect, the whole of her tense, as if ready to spring’. This helped Arthur to verify that his own feelings were real and that the strange sound they were hearing was affecting them both in the same way, for the same reasons, that something was not right, that something was there.
It is not just about being human, it is about being alive. Appearance The previous point noted that ‘interactions’ are very different between ghosts and humans.Humans are social creatures and we find it strange hen someone is in a ‘world of their own’ and, as with Arthur, tend to make all kinds of assumptions based on what we see and hear. Arthur’s description that she may be suffering from some ‘terrible wasting disease’ and her skin being ‘the thinnest layer of flesh… strained across her bones..
. regarded as incurable’ makes the reader think of rotting flesh and death, that she may not be human. These ‘signs’ alone, did not allow Arthur to uncover the truth, but as the story develops, Arthur starts to open his mind and he begins to doubt what is real and unreal.The appearance of the children, looking on at the burial of Mrs Drablow, were ‘row of pale, solemn faces’ they were ‘quite motionless’ looking ‘so unlike children’ who are generally ‘animated and carefree’.
The reader is left wondering whether the children are in fact human as they are not showing human traits, which can be seen when Arthur smiles at one of the children, but does not get a smile back. Movements In addition to ‘appearance’, another important aspect of the differences between ghosts and humans are their movements.Arthur enjoys the countryside and loves to move around on a bike, ‘ feeling the rush of pure cold air’ on his face. He felt a’ glow of well-being’ which ‘banished every ervous fear and morbid fancy’.
The reader can feel a sense of ‘it’s good to be alive’ in the story and is confirmation that life is going on. In contrast the woman in black appears almost weightless, seeming to float from one area to another. Suddenly to appear and disappear, no movement seen.During chapter 10 Arthur catches a ‘glimpse of someone standing..
.. a woman…..
… hat woman’ in one of the upper windows of Mrs Drablow’s house. She appears to just happen, no movement, but to suddenly just be there. Emotions One of the main areas to explore are the emotions of the humans and the ghost. The humans within the story, as within ‘real life’ situations, have many emotions. For example, happiness, sadness, anger, love, confidence, anxiety, fear, stress, hate, to name but a few.
The emotion of fear is shown through the character, Jerome, who has a fearful and distressed reaction when Arthur asks who the woman is.This also manifested itself physically by Jerome becoming ‘frozen, pale, his throat moving as if he were unable to utter’. His fear, making him ‘glued to the spot’ unable to respond. During chapter five, Arthur espy’s the woman in black in the small burial ground by Mrs Drablow’s house, he becomes filled with fear. His heart lurched and ‘pounded like hammers.
.. mouth dry…
filling him with dread’. So strong are these emotions that they also effect his physical being, making his ‘knees to tremble… flesh to creep’ and ‘turn to cold as stone’.These feelings turn to ‘fight or flight’ and he chooses to run back to the safety of the house, back inside the four walls, where he feels secure, away from the vastness and openness of the countryside and the events unfolding. The ghost appears to have only one type of emotion, explained by Arthur as being the ‘purest evil, hatred and loathing’.
These are negative traits, which humans can relate to. Maybe Arthur’s senses make him believe the ghost has emotions, but he cannot possibly know whether these are real feelings given off by the ghost.These are ‘echoes’ of past human feelings from a ‘poor, crazed, troubled woman, dead of grief and distress’ named Jennet Humfrye. She had lost her own child and her bitterness turned into ‘wickedness’ that meant she could not rest. These powerful ‘vibes’ made her emotions ‘live on’. The yearly death of a child within the village, appeared to be the result of these strong emotions from a past life.
Towards the end of the story it is realised that the woman in black has only one mission, to hurt, to estroy and to make those who live, suffer, by the loss of their own children, leading to a continual revenge.Conclusion I have described and evaluated five main differences between the ghost and the human characters, within the ‘Woman in Black’. In each area I have evidenced from the story, to show these differences and in some cases likenesses. I also explained that it is not only humans that are affected by ghostly events and that Spider the dog was also aware when a presence was felt. The evidence sets the feeling for the atmosphere and the tension that these differences create, resulting in a gripping, sometimes scary and tragic plot.