22 Sep 2013

Isolation in the Woman in Black GCSE Controlled Assessment

Isolation is a key theme in The Woman in Black. Arthur Kipps is emotionally isolated from his family's happiness at the start of the novel, and is set apart from other men by his traumatic experiences. Later in the novel, he is physically isolated from civilization, as he passes through Gapemouth tunnel to Crythin Gifford. His naivety, and - ironically - his self-conscious superiority as an outsider isolates him from the villages who clam up about the secrets of
Eel Marsh House, further isolating him. Later still, he is physically isolated by the weather, and estuary that covers up the Nine Lives Causeway, trapping him in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the house. The novel is structured to create the effect that Kipps is receding into the mist and darkness, even as he enters deeper into the mystery.

Key scenes where he is further isolated are when his torch smashes, trapping him in darkness with unseen terrors and sounds, and when he rescues Spider from the bog, becomes disoriented in the mist and finally blacks out. Ironically, the most brutal isolation of all - the destruction of his new wife and child, happen in full public view, in a busy London park.

The dead Mrs Drablow was also isolated in the house, though Kipps supposes she was used to it. Samuel Daily tells him it made her peculiar - and he too, seems to be rattling around in too-large spaces in his house with his wife. Love make it light and bearable - Daily's kind wife, and for Kipps, the presence of Spider - showing loneliness as a type of isolation that can be banished by love, just as the torch banishes darkness and fear. This brings out one of the key themes of the book: isolation from love as a bitter, destructive force that corrupts everything around it.



Isolating effects on the contaminating desire for revenge, the inability to forgive, let go and forget.
1. Arthur Kipps; Kipps' ignorance isolates him. His child-like naivety sets him apart ironically because he thinks of himself as the sophisticated Londoner. 
2. Keckwick can't speak (isolated, silenced) - pony and trap links to the ghostly one, like a boatman to the underworld he inhabits a limbo state;
3. Jennet Humfrye - isolated by her rage. Quotes about her wasted appearance, fury (physically/ghostly eating up), smashes the nursery physical destruction and killings. Irony of Kipps description of the cradle rocking being a soothing sound - symbol of safety and security utterly corrupted: 'heavenly spirits surrounding, upholding and preserving us', and 'the Bible'. When he first sees her, he describes 'not inconsiderable former beauty'
'dreadful disfigurement of a burning'. 'Her passionate love for her child, her isolation with it ... which at first she fought bitterly again and finally gave in despairingly' - despair is the deadliest of sins (losing hope) - children are often a symbol of hope.
4. Locations, weather and pathetic fallacy - link this to sensory deprivation, disorientation - limbo/liminal state of the journey cuts him off from civilization - gapemouth tunnel 
5. Social and Historical Context, as a noble woman JH has no legitimacy without a man and is unable to keep her child and is rendered isolated, powerless, and when she returns as a ghost, the force of her bitterness, desire for revenge gives her huge power. Depending on whether we identify her with the mists and the tide, she is isolating and controlling Kipps, finally killing his wife and son in similar fashion. Betrayal. She is made silent even when she comes to visit he son, being unable to tell him that she is his mother. Social convention makes her an un-person, denying her her true status.
6. Alice Drablow 'that lonely old woman' 'dying alone' 'wasted life'


The author, , 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.