The Woman in Black

by

Susan Hill

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The Woman in Black: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The following morning, Stella and Arthur return to London. With Stella by his side, Arthur resolves to put the whole terrible affair behind him. He is sad to part with the Dailys, though, and insists they visit him in London. As Arthur and Stella head for the train station in Samuel Daily’s car, Arthur reflects on a question he asked Daily just before leaving. He asked if a child in Crythin Gifford had yet fallen ill or died during the time he was stricken with fever; Samuel answered that nothing had happened to any child—yet. Arthur prayed aloud that the chain of terror had been broken.
As Arthur and Stella make their way back home, Arthur is determined to push the horrible events that befell him in Crythin Gifford from his mind. Despite this, he cannot bear the thought that a child has died as a result, however tangential, of his angering Jennet. Upon hearing that no children have been harmed during the time he was ill, Arthur is able to return to London with a sense of relief—and even hope.
Themes
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
Arthur writes that he has only one last thing left to tell—he can scarcely bring himself to write it out, but has summoned up the very last of his strength, which has been depleted in reliving these past horrors, to tell the story all the way through to its end for the first time. Arthur reveals that after returning to London, he and Stella were married within six weeks. They did not want to wait—Arthur had an urgent sense of time in the wake of his ordeal and was determined to seize upon any joy he could find.
Though all that has preceded the final chapter of his “memoir” has been terrifying and unsettling, Arthur warns his readers that the worst is yet to come—the true reason for his trauma (and his marriage, in the “present,” to a woman other than Stella) is about to emerge.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
A little over a year after their marriage, Stella gave birth to a son whom they named Joseph Arthur Samuel. Samuel Daily was the child’s godfather; they saw Mr. Daily in London often, but never spoke of Eel Marsh or Crythin Gifford. Arthur hardly ever even thought of his terrible time there any longer, so happy was he in his life with Stella and their child. He was not prepared, he writes, for what was to come.
Back in London, Arthur allowed himself to be lulled back into a sense of happiness and security. He tried to push his memories of Eel Marsh House from his mind, and focused only on his family—but was blind to the ways in which the past was not yet quite done with him.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
When their son was about a year old, Arthur and Stella took him a fair in a large park about ten miles out of London. It was festive and joyful, and rides and games abounded. Stella wanted to take the baby Joseph on a donkey ride, but the baby, afraid, protested, and instead pointed happily to a nearby pony trap. Stella took the child for a ride, and Arthur happily watched them trot off around a bend. Looking over the other festival-goers, Arthur spotted a familiar face: the woman in black, standing away from the crowd, hiding behind the trunk of a tree.
As Arthur recalls coming face-to-face with the woman in black on the outskirts of London—far away from her homestead of Crythin Gifford—the terrifying truth of her powers are revealed. The woman in black has nursed her vendetta against Arthur for years—now that he is the parent of a child, her hatred of him has intensified, and she has come back for him.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
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Arthur and the woman in black made eye contact, and as she held his gaze, he felt a deep and penetrating fear. He could feel the hatred, bitterness, and malevolence emanating from Jennet just as he did in the nursery back at Eel Marsh House. The pony trap came trotting back towards Arthur, and he broke eye contact with Jennet, determined to retrieve Stella and Joseph at once and return home. As they approached, however, Jennet stepped into the pony’s path, causing the animal to rear and swerve before taking off on a wild tear. The carriage hit a tree with a sickening crack, and Arthur ran to it.
Arthur knows in the first seconds he sees the woman in black that her hatred and malevolence has not abated—and that the cyclical violence and terror she inflicts on others in pursuit of isolating and traumatizing them the way she was is nowhere near done. In a sickening twist, Jennet attacks and kills Arthur’s first child and new wife in the same manner in which her own son was taken from her.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
Bystanders lifted Stella from the cart; her neck had been broken along with her legs, but she was still conscious. Joseph, however, had been thrown against a nearby tree and now laid crumpled and dead in the grass. Ten months later, Arthur reports, Stella died of her injuries; Jennet Humfrye had at last taken her revenge.
Arthur’s resigned, abrupt conclusion to his tale stands in stark contrast to the detailed, even sumptuous prose that characterized the rest of his story. It seems as if the woman has defeated Arthur yet again in making him confront his past—he remains as traumatized, and as isolated due to his trauma, as ever before.
Themes
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
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