The Woman in Black

by

Susan Hill

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The Woman in Black: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Arthur awakes abruptly in the early hours of the morning to find that a strong wind has picked up on the marsh—the windows throughout the house are rattling, wind moans and whistles through the chimneys, and the marsh is barely visible for all the fog. Arthur manages to doze off again, until he is catapulted back to wakefulness by the sound of a crying child somewhere out on the marsh. Arthur tells himself that there is not really a child stranded in the muck—it is a ghostly apparition—but still has trouble ignoring the cries of the long-dead ghost.
Arthur has been through a lot this evening—but the sudden rolling in of wind and fog suggest that there are more terrible things to come.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Arthur gets out of bed and goes out into the hall, preparing to go downstairs and make himself a strong drink. As he walks out onto the landing, he has the impression that someone has just gone past him on the stairs, though he has heard not even a footstep. Arthur wonders if there is in fact another human living in the house as he tries desperately to come up with a rational explanation for the strange things happening to him. He eventually settles into the knowledge that there is no one else living in the house—whoever was in the rocker and whoever just passed by him on the stairs is not “real.” At this thought, Arthur begins to wonder what “real” even means to him anymore.
As the frights, horrors, and traumas Arthur is experiencing continue to escalate, his rational mind searches incessantly for factual reasons for the strange noises, feelings, and sights to no avail. Arthur has begun to accept that the nature of his reality has shifted, and will perhaps never be the same.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
Arthur, realizing he needs some light, goes back to his bedroom and retrieves the torch. He stumbles over Spider, however, and drops it—the glass within breaks. Arthur feels frustrated and comes close to weeping. He begins banging his fists on the floor until they throb. Spider comes over to him and scratches at his arm; Arthur wraps her in a hug and is comforted by her presence. Arthur knows there is a candle on the table near the bed in the nursery, and struggles to muster the courage to go down the hall, into the haunted room, and retrieve it. As he wrestles with his terror, he realizes that it will either escalate until he grows mad, or he will be able to topple it and become in even greater possession of himself than he has ever been.
Arthur is beginning to lose his grip on his emotions in small ways. Shattering the torch flattens him—he is so terrified and so worn down by the fear of isolation and further traumatization that the smallest inconvenience in the “real” world becomes a life-or-death situation in the world of Eel Marsh House. Arthur worries that his condition will worsen, but tries to bolster his mood by reassuring himself that he may yet emerge from this harrowing experience stronger than ever.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
Arthur gets to his feet, goes to the nursery, and retrieves the candle. Though there is nothing terrifying awaiting him in the nursery, he feels intense feelings of grief, sadness, and despair again—it is though he has, in entering the room, become another person, or at least been flooded by another person’s feelings. As soon as he steps out of the room, he feels like himself again.
There is no doubt that nursery is the epicenter of the house’s haunting—it is the only room where Arthur feels an icy dread and despair, as if something (or someone) is reaching into his very soul and attempting to break him down. This mirrors the way that Arthur instantly feels dread and terror in the presence of the woman in black but feels like himself again once she’s out of sight.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
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Arthur returns to his room and lights the candle. According to his watch, it is barely three o’clock in the morning, and he desperately hopes that the candle will last until the light of dawn. He begins reading and falls asleep eventually, waking up into a watery dawn at the sound of Spider’s whines—she needs to go outside.
Despite his fear, Arthur is able to fall asleep for a little while. In the morning, Spider is not on edge—she is behaving like any other dog, and this brings Arthur hope that they have both made it through the night and will soon be free.
Themes
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
Arthur takes Spider out the front door. As he stands waiting for her to finish relieving herself, he decides to put on a coat and boots and go for a walk. Just then, he hears the sound of someone whistling—as if to summon a dog. Spider sets off as if after a hare, running away from the safety of the yard and into the wet marsh. Arthur knows there is no one out on the marsh whistling for Spider—it is yet another nonhuman apparition.
As someone—or something—in the distance calls out to Spider, it is evident that it is yet another trick of whatever haunts Eel Marsh House. This makes it seem suspicious, even malevolent—as if something is trying to take Spider away from Arthur and isolate them both.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
Arthur watches in horror as Spider is pulled into the mud. He takes off after her, risking his own life to save hers. Realizing that if he is not careful, he, too will be pulled into the muck, Arthur lies down so as to distribute his weight across the earth more evenly, and, with great difficulty, wrestles Spider from the quicksand-like mud. He eventually heaves Spider onto his chest, and the two of them lie silently, recovering from their frightening ordeal. As Arthur regains his strength, he slowly gets up and scoops Spider up in his arms. As he approaches Eel Marsh House, he looks up; in one of the upper windows, he sees the wasted-faced woman in black peering down at him. Exhausted and terrified, Arthur collapses on the front lawn as the sound of an approaching pony trap echoes down the causeway.
Arthur’s worst fears are confirmed—the woman in black, who up to this point seemed only to inspire dread and fear in Arthur, has now made a direct attempt on his and his companion’s lives. Shattered by this knowledge, Arthur collapses, and is so deeply petrified and downtrodden that even the sound of the pony trap accident looping once more does not affect him any longer.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
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