The Woman in Black

by

Susan Hill

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The Woman in Black: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Arthur walks quickly down the drive, glancing over his shoulder to see if the woman in black is following him. At the same time, though, he has half-persuaded himself that there is a logical reason for the woman’s presence both at Mrs. Drablow’s funeral and her mansion, and that she is flesh and blood rather than a ghost.
Arthur is both traumatized and desperate to convince himself that the fear he feels is unfounded. He searches over and over again for logical explanations, even though so much of what he has heard and witnessed in Crythin Gifford speaks to the contrary—and to the existence of spirits, ghosts, and haunts.
Themes
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Arthur sets off down the causeway and finds that though underfoot the path is dry, the tide is indeed beginning to come in. Arthur feels small and insignificant against the expansive marsh landscape, and becomes lost in his own thoughts. He does not realize immediately that he can no longer see very far in front of him; he turns around to look back toward Eel Marsh House, but finds that a thick sea-mist has come up and obscured both the path ahead and the way behind. Arthur walks slowly onward, until he realizes that the most “sensible” thing to do is to retrace his steps back toward the house and wait there until the mist clears, or Keckwick returns to fetch him.
One of the sudden sea-mists Samuel Daily warned Arthur about has rolled in—of course, portending trouble and doom. Arthur, however, stubborn and ignorant as ever, decides to press onward—until even he is forced to admit that the fog combined with the threat of the rising marsh water poses a physical challenge he cannot overcome.
Themes
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The walk back is a nightmare—Arthur focuses on putting one foot in front of the other, and tries not to look up, as each time he does he becomes disoriented. Before long he begins to hear the sound of Keckwick’s pony trap coming towards him and feels relieved, but soon realizes that the sound seems to be moving farther away instead of nearer. After a few minutes, he hears the unmistakable sound of the “neighing and whinnying of a horse in panic,” followed by the sobs of a young child. Arthur realizes that Keckwick must be ferrying a child with him, and has become stuck in the marsh, dragged under by the pull of the incoming tide.
Arthur’s desperate plan to get out of Eel Marsh House and across the causeway as soon as possible is failing him. He has encountered something frightening and even dangerous—and has isolated himself by ignoring the warning signs of the sea-mist and progressing into unknown territory, where a terrible accident seems to have taken place. Arthur realizes that if what he is hearing is really happening, he will be stranded at Eel Marsh House even longer.
Themes
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Arthur begins shouting, and tries to run forward, but knows that to move farther down the causeway would be to risk his own life—he may not be able to help Keckwick or the child even if he finds them, and may even be sucked into the marsh himself. He decides to return to Eel Marsh House, light all the lamps, and try to signal the stranded travelers from there.
Arthur is distressed and worried, but is so isolated by the thick fog and the dangerous causeway that he cannot be of any help.
Themes
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As soon as Arthur is back inside the house, he collapses into a chair and begins sobbing. After some time, he gets up and goes about the house, switching on every light he can find. He finds himself some brandy, pours a drink, and lingers in the sitting room to try and calm himself. Eventually, he falls asleep, and sometime later is awoken by the clangorous ringing of a bell. He is unsure of how long he has slept—he has lost all sense of time. He realizes that someone is ringing the bell at the front door. He stumbles through the hall and answers the door—he is shocked to see that Keckwick is standing there, and, behind him on the driveway, is the pony trap. The marshes are still and silent, and there is no trace of fog or dampness in the air.
Arthur is deeply distressed by what he has heard. He believes—rationally as ever—that he has just on some level been witness to a horrible accident, and the loss of innocent life; unable to bear the pain, he drinks himself to sleep, only to wake up and find that Keckwick made it across the causeway after all. Arthur realizes that what he heard must have either been a hallucination or some other trick of the marsh.
Themes
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Keckwick laments that the only thing to do when such a fog rolls in is to wait it out. He explains his lateness: after he waited for the fog to dissipate, he had to wait for the tide to change. Arthur is stunned. He checks his watch and sees that it is nearly two o’ clock in the morning; the tide has begun to recede, and the causeway is visible again. Arthur feels sick and weary, disoriented by the odd hours of his nap. He thanks Keckwick for coming all the way out at this hour, but Keckwick insists he never would have left Arthur overnight.
Keckwick is well-versed in traversing the causeway; he knows its secrets and tricks, and knows just as well that to leave someone overnight at Eel Marsh House is a great cruelty—and perhaps even a great danger.
Themes
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Arthur begins to ask Keckwick how he got unstuck form the marsh, but then the horrible realization that someone other than Keckwick—someone with a child—must have been what he heard drowning in the marsh earlier. He wonders who in the world had been driving through such a treacherous place—and why.
Arthur understands that Keckwick was never the noise he heard at all—which makes him wonder who was trying to cross the causeway. Though clearly spooked, Arthur still stubbornly assumes that the noises were coming from real-life people and not ghosts.
Themes
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Arthur shuts off all the lights in the house and then gets into the pony trap. He and Keckwick make their way across the causeway, and Arthur falls into an uneasy half-sleep. He thinks of the horrible things he has seen and heard all in one day, and realizes that the woman in black must be a ghostly spirit after all. He wonders if the pony and carriage he heard sinking in the marsh were ghostly apparitions long-dead, as well. Arthur convinces himself that this is the case, and it actually allows him to feel calmer knowing that he has heard ghosts. Though he does not want to return to Eel Marsh House the following day, he decides to wait until the morning to figure out how to broach the topic with Mr. Bentley.
At last, Arthur is no longer trying to make rationally minded justifications for the horrific and unsettling things he has seen; he accepts that there are spirits in and around Eel Marsh House, and that he has been victimized by the woman in black. He is unsure of what to do or who to tell now that he has admitted the truth to himself, but as he returns to the “real” world across the causeway, it becomes clear that Arthur has been changed by the things he’s seen.
Themes
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Back at the inn, Arthur crawls into bed. The landlord, relieved to have Arthur back even at such a late hour, has promised him he will not be disturbed early in the morning. Arthur lies down and falls into a restless sleep, suffering all night horrible dreams of the terrified whinny of the pony, the calling of the ghostly child, and the dark, hovering presence of the woman in black.
Arthur has been deeply traumatized by the things he has experienced at Eel Marsh House. His distress is palpable to the landlord as well, who clearly has some understanding of what Arthur has been through just by knowing he visited Eel Marsh House.
Themes
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