How is the character of Arthur Kipps shown?
1. Structural techniques that the author uses to present the main character: first person narration, framing narrative
2. What do his relationships with, and attitudes to other characters show us about his nature – isolated, haunted, at one remove (in the flashback scenes he is also isolated, but he is very skeptical of superstitions – attitudes to ghost stories
3. He is haunted by his past: semantic fields that he uses to describe his surroundings – his mood and viewpoint colours the landscape and location
4. Presentation as a typical or atypical gothic hero
First, Kipps is presented as a family man, in a ‘festive’ mood, using the semantic field of warmth and togetherness, yet from the first moment he steps ‘outside’. This sense of him as an outsider is further developed in Chapter Three.
From the first moments of Chapter One, Kipps is portrayed as a man of habit, saying ‘I have always liked’, ‘I like to’ is repeated, linked to momentary sensory experiences, setting him firmly as a realist, in the pleasures of the moment – as where he says ‘I enjoy’. He uses sensory language, which tips, disturbingly into the negative. He describes the house and weather as ‘sour’, ‘chilling’, ‘raw’ and ‘dismally’, make him seem somewhat depressive though he seems to have family, warmth and comfort all around him. This establishes the mystery of what it is that causes his mood and we learn gradually that he is haunted by his past.
He says, ‘for many years now my spirits have been excessively affected by the weather.’ This establishes him as a typical gothic protagonist, as pathetic fallacy is a dominant technique within the genre. Even though he experiences ‘cheerfulness’ he imagines that he ‘should have been quite cast down in gloom and lethargy’. He calls up black moods even when he isn’t experiencing them, giving a slightly eerie feel to his character as if he is always conscious of his shadow. The home he has chosen also seems to suit his character. Monk’s piece is in ‘wildness’ with an air of ‘remoteness and isolation’ away from ‘civilization’, again linking to typical gothic themes of remote, wild settings. Kipps often reminisces about the past in mini-flashbacks of buying the house and a major one where he tells the events of Mrs Drablow’s will from chapter two onwards. The framing narrative sets up a contrast between now: a ruined man, and the past where a young, whole, hearty man rushes towards a terrible fate. The first person style colours the events black - as we experience them through the eyes of his terror and agitation - while bringing us claustrophoically close to them. The novel is told from Kipps’ point of view which, in the second chapter goes into the events of the past that have caused his nervous breakdown.
The weather changes from Autumn to Winter, even as the mood darkens, making a disturbing transition. Oddly, we shift then from Christmas to November, the typical month of the dead where the dead are closest to the living– evoking the way in which it is used by Mary Shelley in ‘Frankenstein’. Kipps is associated with the liminal (transition either/or, trapped). At the start of the novel, he tells us the weather has ‘changed’, it is set on Christmas Eve, they tell ghost stories, and the whole of chapter three deals with his journey. In the train he feels trapped, it isn’t moving and he can’t see anything for the fog, as if he is enclosed, ‘isolated’ in the nothingness of ‘darkness’.
The train is ‘stopped’ ‘in the middle of nowhere’ and he talks at length with Daly about Gifford as a “nothing” place. Kipps uses the image of a ‘cold tomb’ to describe the train, an eerie image of being buried alive, trapped between two states which echoes the sense that he is haunted. His lack of imagination is shown when he describes this liminality as ‘tedious’, as if he doesn’t notice the devouring imagery of ‘gapemouth tunnel’, the ‘swallowed up village’ and ‘disappeared into darkness’.
Kipps repeatedly is portrayed as a practical man who does not scare easily. He says, firmly in the midst of fearful recollections: ‘I clung to the prosaic, the visible and the tangible’. Even once he has seen ghosts, his matter of fact nature remains – yet with ghosts he daren’t look at, always in the background. He finds the gothic melodrama of the ghost stories in Chapter One as laughable. [find quotes to prove he doesn’t believe in ghost stories even though he has seen a ghost]... 700 words (to be continued).
The author, Melanie Kendry, is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher and of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post. She offers private tuition in the Haywards Heath area, West Sussex.