Unlocking a Poem – WJEC Board Style

When writing about a poem it is best to follow a structure. Below are some numbered guidelines for you to follow, which are as follows:

1. Content. What is the poem about? Does it have one person speaking or possibly a character [or two]? From whose point of view is it written?

2. Themes. What are the themes of the poem? By looking at this, you are expected to make comments about a theme and the style of writing used, using any knowledge of stylistic devices [similes etc] that you have.

3. Ideas. You are to write about the ideas that you think the poet is trying to get us to think about as readers. Use quotes here to prove your point.

4. Words and phrases. Pick out a number [possibly three???] of key words and phrases that you think are particularly effective or good [sad, emotional, grim etc] and state why you like them and the effect they have on you as a reader of the poem. 

5. Your response. At the end, you are asked to write your response to the poem. You do not have to like the poem to be able to write about it. If you can understand the poem, then write about it, but do it in detail.


Gothic Fiction

Gothic fiction, sometimes referred to as Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature that combines non-fiction, horror and romance.

Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) “A Gothic Story.”

The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole’s novel. Melodrama and parody (including self-parody) were other long-standing features of the Gothic initiated by Walpole.

It originated in England in the second half of the 18th century and had much success in the 19th as witnessed by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Another well-known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The name Gothic refers to the (pseudo)-medieval buildings in which many of these stories take place.

This extreme form of romanticism was very popular in England and Germany. The English gothic novel also led to new novel types such as the German Schauerroman and the French roman noir.


Key moments in the story of Jennet Humfrye

• The teenage Jennet discovers that she is pregnant

• Jennet’s old-fashioned parents react badly

• Jennet is sent to live away from her family and away from the boy who got her pregnant

• Jennet receives a letter, telling her that the child is to be adopted. She has no say in the matter

• The child is born and taken away from her. She can’t stand to be without him. The child, Nathanial, is adopted by Jennet’s older married sister Alice

• Jennet runs away to be with the child, renting a poky one-roomed flat to be near to him

• Jennet threatens violence when her sister will not allow her to see her child

• Eventually, Jennet is allowed to visit occasionally, but she is not allowed to see him alone or to say who she really is

• Nathanial turns out to look like Jennet and the bond between them grows

• Nathanial begins to act increasingly coldly towards Alice

• Jennet begins to make plans to steal the boy away to live with her

• A fatal accident occurs in which the child is killed. Jennet watches the accident but is Unable to do anything to prevent it.

Some quotes about Woman in Black

“Ghost stories have to have a point beyond frightening.”

Susan Hill


“Darkness is a powerful ally of terror; something glimpsed in a corner is far more frightening than if it’s fully observed.”

Stephen Mallatratt


“When you see horror stories, particularly those about aliens, we know they couldn’t exist, so ultimately they don’t frighten us.”

Susan Hill


“As the play progresses, the tension tightens so that the pauses become more terrible than anything you actually see.”

Sarah Crompton, Daily Telegraph, 03 June 2004


“The fear is not on a visual or visceral level, but an imaginative one.”

Stephen Mallatratt


“A fictional ghost has to have a raison d’etre otherwise it is pointless and a pointless ghost is the stuff of all the boring stories about veiled ladies endlessly drifting through walls and headless horsemen riding by – and riding by – and riding by…for no good reason, to no purpose. My ghost cannot let go of her grief or her desire for revenge, she has to go on extracting it…”

Susan Hill

Woman In Black – Chapter 1 Comprehension


It was nine-thirty on Christmas Eve. As I crossed the long entrance hall of Monk’s Piece on my way from the dining room, where we had just enjoyed the first of the happy, festive meals, towards the drawing room and the fire around which my family were now assembled, I paused and then, as I often do in the course of an evening, went to the front door, opened it and stepped outside.

            I have always liked to take a breath of the evening, to smell the air, whether it is sweetly scented and balmy with the flowers of midsummer, pungent with the bonfires and leaf-mould of autumn, or crackling cold from frost and snow. I like to look about me at the sky above my head, whether there are moon and stars or utter blackness, and into the darkness ahead of me; I like to listen for the cries of nocturnal creatures and the moaning rise and fall of the wind, or the pattering of rain in the orchard trees, I enjoy the rush of air towards me up the hill from the flat pastures of the river valley. Tonight, I smelled at once, and with a lightening heart, that there had been a change in the weather. All the previous week, we had had rain, chilling rain and a mist that lay low about the house and over the countryside.

From: The Woman In Black. Chapter 1. Kindle Edition


  1. What can we infer or deduce from the given text above?


  1. The word “happy” on line 3 should make the reader think in opposite as this is a ghost story. What can you infer from the author’s use of the weather at the beginning of the story?


  1. Kipps’ mood changes towards the end of this extract. How do we infer or deduce this?