Woman In Black – Chapter 5 Analysis

This analysis is based on the following question: How does Hill present Arthur Kipps and his reaction to his first visit to Eel Marsh House in Chapter 5, Across the Causeway? What follows below is how I would write such an essay. It is by no means completely covering the chapter and only uses some quotes. It has been placed here for you to use, to get ideas from, so if you decide to use any section of it, then I expect credit to be given to this site. If not, you are plagiarizing and cheating and good luck with that one! Take notice of the structure of the thing and glean ideas from it. Good luck.

How does Hill present Arthur Kipps and his reaction to his first visit to Eel Marsh House in Chapter 5, Across the Causeway?

In the novella, The Woman In Black, by Susan Hill, the author, uses a variety of techniques to allow the reader to feel the sensations that Arthur Kipps, the chief protagonist in the plot, feels. In doing so, Hill takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions and this is seen particularly well in chapter 5, entitled where he crosses the causeway to Eel Marsh House.

Before the chapter begins, Kipps has been summoned to Crythin Gifford to sort the affairs of the late Mrs Drablow, who lived in the remote Eel Marsh House, across a causeway of land and in this chapter, Kipps endeavours to visit the old house for the first time. He has seen local residents quieten when the conversation has turned to Mrs Drablow’s affairs, has sensed a conspiracy of silence between them based and emerging out of fear and as he goes to the house, he is quite optimistic that he can get his job done efficiently on his own, thinking the fears of the locals are mere superstition.

Hill uses the five senses throughout the chapter, both in Kipps and in the reader, who in turn, senses Kipps’ feelings as he experiences them. By beginning with a simple sentence, for effect, of “no car appeared,” she is making the reader anticipate that something mysterious is about to happen. Then she develops the next few more complex sentences, using words like “worn” and “shabby” to describe the pony and trap. In essence, this can be seen as symbolic of the village and of the house he is about to visit, as if they are linked together in some kind of way. Age and decay seem to be prevalent in Crythin Gifford, both in the architecture and in the attitudes of the locals.

As he begins his travels on the pony and trap, with Keckwick across the causeway, Hill has him describe how “delighted at the sight” he is, showing his sense of progression and that his work is continuing apace. So at the beginning of the chapter, Kipps is confident, happy to be there and doing what he is paid for, content with his surroundings and the people he has met so far. Although he remembers “the ill-looking young woman,” he also sees that there is a beauty in the weather and the surroundings and as the journey to the house continues, there is an optimism in the words “all was bright and clear.” But then, as he gets closer to Eel Marsh House, the reader senses the change in him, in what he sees, in what he feels and hears. As “soil” gives way “to rough grass,” and he hears the “weird cries” all around him and “the water” gleams “like metal,” Kipps begins to sense danger approaching.

At this point there is the sense that Kipps is sharing positive and negative emotions and thoughts and as such, the reader senses these as well, feeling them with him, feeling his sense of dread. But it is when he sees Eel Marsh House for the first time and describes it as “a tall, gaunt house of grey stone with a slate roof” that the reader, with a knowledge of Gothic literature and its use of weather and archaic architecture, sees and feels the danger approaching as well. It is written this way to give the reader the sensation that something mysterious and dark is brooding over or near the house. It is a typical ghost story venue, an old run down house and most readers would be able to see this as they read.

Kipps describes it as “the most astonishingly situated house.” Clearly, this is also part of the genre and Hill is using a house set in an isolated and remote place to set the events before the reader. It is created thus, on purpose, to lure the reader into the narrative further, to allow the reader to feel the growing uneasiness and sense of positive and negative emotions now surging through Kipps. Hill uses this technique exceptionally well. Negative words like “isolated” and “uncompromising” are used to keep the reader on edge and they are extremely effective words to use in such a setting as this. Used with the title of the house, Eel Marsh House, one begins to see and feel the mystery, the weirdness of the house. Eels are slippery, mysterious creatures. A marsh is usually desolate and isolated, so the naming of the house is perfect in creating this scene, which is now set as Kipps arrives at the house.

Kipps says that he is “fascinated by it,” meaning the house, showing his sense of adventure, another Gothic element in literature, and Hill has him sharing that he is “aware of a heightening of every one” of his senses, something the reader is experiencing also. It is these sensations that Hill is trying to capture in this chapter as the house is set as a venue for what is going to happen later in the novella. Kipps even begins to “romanticize a little about how it would be” for he and his wife to live there.

But positivity turns to negativity as the chapter progresses and because of the weather, again used by Hill to make such a change in direction happen, Kipps becomes “conscious of the cold and the extreme bleakness and eeriness of the spot.” It is this eeriness that the reader is expecting because of the description of weather and isolation. The reader is expecting something bad to happen next and Hill does not disappoint, for Kipps sees once again “the woman with the wasted face.” When he does so, his whole mood changes to one of fear. The language at this point is quite poetic in its style as he stares at the woman until his “eyes ached in their sockets.” It is such a vivid description and one that brings the reader into the same sensation of dread, “surprise and bewilderment.”

In a way, Hill is using words to describe the woman and Kipps together, but also to describe and show how the reader should be feeling too; the resulting sensation of a “desperate, yearning malevolence.” This closeness to detail is alarming to the reader, allowing them into the sharing experience and even though Kipps is still a little unsure as to what actually is happening, the reader shares in the experience that fills Kipps with fear. He is described as never knowing the sensation before of being “gripped and held fast by such dread and horror and apprehension of evil,” which is a magnificent way of describing the terror he must be feeling at this point, so much so that he then adds that he feels he would “drop dead on that wretched patch of ground.” The reader is meant to associate these feelings as they are reading and as the reader responds in like fashion, it develops the sense of adventure and of mystery.

Throughout the rest of the chapter, where positivity turns to negativity, again using description of place to add to the mystery, the reader sees Kipps trying to rationalize out the things that have happened to him. This is something that we as readers would be doing also, so it is a very clever technique used by Hill as Kipps thinks things through from his eventful day. He has to think why he feels that every drop of energy is draining “out of [him] rapidly,” and why he “needed reassurance” after these events take place. Kipps remarks that “it is remarkable how powerful a force simple curiosity can be,” showing the reader just where their curiosity has got them in reading the novella in the first place.

It is only at the end, when Kipps is able to fully rationalise his feelings and experiences and when he decides not to wait for Keckwick and return to Crythin Gifford, that the reader sees and experiences his sense of combatant desire to overcome what is happening to him. In doing so, Hill successfully incorporates some of the elements of gothic literature into this single chapter to show the turning sensations and fears that her protagonist is going through. It is a turning point for Kipps in the plot structure just as much for the reader and one that is written very well and for dramatic effect.

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