The Woman in Black

by

Susan Hill

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Pony Traps Symbol Icon

Pony traps, which are small, two-person horse-drawn carriages, symbolize a traversal—physically, emotionally, or psychologically—between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Arthur’s appointed driver in Crythin Gifford, Keckwick, ferries him back and forth down the Nine Lives Causeway to and from Eel Marsh House in a pony trap. In this way, Keckwick is reminiscent of the Greek mythological figure of Charon, who ferries souls across the River Styx and into the realm of the dead. Eel Marsh House—haunted by the ghost of Jennet and the site of Mrs. Drablow’s recent death—is a place consumed by the malevolent energy of the woman in black. While there, Arthur confronts visual, emotional and auditory hauntings. One of the most chilling “hallucinations” Arthur is subjected to is the sound of a pony trap being pulled into the sticky marsh; he can hear, but never see due to the marsh’s thick fog, the sounds of a pony’s distressed neighing and a woman and child’s horrible cry as the trap is sucked down into the muck (it is eventually revealed that Keckwick himself was the driver of the fateful accident that killed Jennet’s son Nathaniel and his nanny.) Significantly, Arthur’s beloved wife Stella and the couple’s infant son also both die in a pony trap; in London, nearly two years after Arthur departs Crythin Gifford, Stella and the baby take a ride in a pony trap at a fair and are waylaid by the woman in black, who forces their carriage to crash, maiming Stella and killing the child instantly. 

Arthur’s frequent traversal of the Nine Lives Causeway in a pony trap suggests that he is leaving the realm of the “normal” and entering that of the supernatural; the pony trap accident he is forced to listen to again and again while trapped by the high tide at Eel Marsh House indicates that the spirit realm has completely enveloped him; the pony trap’s seemingly benign but ultimately fatal reappearance at the London fair in the novel’s closing shows that the spirit realm works in mysterious ways, and that certain malevolent beings can travel between worlds and see their darkest wills done.

Pony Traps Quotes in The Woman in Black

The The Woman in Black quotes below all refer to the symbol of Pony Traps. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Woman in Black published in 2011.
Chapter 5 Quotes

No car appeared. Instead, there drew up outside the Gifford Arms a rather worn and shabby pony and trap. It was not at all out of place in the market square—I had noticed a number of such vehicles that morning and, assuming that this one belonged to some farmer or stockman, I took no notice, but continued to look around me, for a motor. Then I heard my name called.

The pony was a small, shaggy-looking creature, wearing blinkers, and the driver with a large cap pulled down low over his brow, and a long, hairy brown coat, looked not unlike it, and blended with the whole equipage.

Related Characters: Arthur Kipps (speaker), Keckwick
Related Symbols: Pony Traps
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

So I thought that night, as I laid my head on the soft pillow and fell eventually into a restless, shadowy sleep, across which figures came and went, troubling me, so that once or twice I half-woke myself, as I cried out or spoke a few incoherent words, I sweated, I turned and turned about, trying to free myself from the nightmares, to escape from my own semi-conscious sense of dread and foreboding, and all the time, piercing through the surface of my dreams, came the terrified whinnying of the pony and the crying and calling of that child over and over, while I stood, helpless in the mist, my feet held fast, my body pulled back, and while behind me, though I could not see, only sense her dark presence, hovered the woman.

Related Characters: Arthur Kipps (speaker), The Woman in Black / Jennet Humfrye
Related Symbols: Fog and Mist, Pony Traps
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

"It seems to me, Mr. Daily," I said, "that I have seen whatever ghost haunts Eel Marsh and that burial ground. A woman in black with a wasted face. Because I have no doubt at all that she was whatever people call a ghost, that she was not a real, living, breathing human being. Well, she did me no harm. She neither spoke nor came near me. I did not like her look and I liked the… the power that seemed to emanate from her toward me even less, but I have convinced myself that it is a power that cannot do more than make me feel afraid. If I go there and see her again, I am prepared."

"And the pony and trap?"

I could not answer because, yes, that had been worse, far worse, more terrifying because it had been only heard not seen and because the cry of that child would never, I was sure, leave me for the rest of my life.

I shook my head. "I won't run away."

Related Characters: Arthur Kipps (speaker), Samuel Daily (speaker), The Woman in Black / Jennet Humfrye
Related Symbols: Pony Traps
Page Number: 99-100
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

But she was alive and so was I and, gradually, a little warmth from each of our bodies and the pause revived us and, cradling Spider like a child in my arms, I began to stumble back across the marshes toward the house. As I did so and within a few yards of it, I glanced up. At one of the upper windows, the only window with bars across it, the window of the nursery, I caught a glimpse of someone standing. A woman. That woman. She was looking directly toward me. Spider was whimpering in my arms and making occasional little retching coughs. We were both trembling violently. How I reached the grass in front of the house I shall never know but, as I did so, I heard a sound. It was coming from the far end of the causeway path which was just beginning to be visible as the tide began to recede. It was the sound of a pony trap.

Related Characters: Arthur Kipps (speaker), The Woman in Black / Jennet Humfrye
Related Symbols: Pony Traps
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

I began to run crazily and then I heard it, the sickening crack and thud as the pony and its cart collided with one of the huge tree trunks. […]

They lifted Stella gently from the cart. Her body was broken, her neck and legs fractured, though she was still conscious. […]

Our baby son had been thrown clear, clear against another tree. He lay crumpled on the grass below it, dead. This time, there was no merciful loss of consciousness, I was forced to live through it all, every minute and then every day thereafter, for ten long months, until Stella, too, died from her terrible injuries.

I had seen the ghost of Jennet Humfrye and she had had

her revenge.

They asked for my story. I have told it. Enough.

Related Characters: Arthur Kipps (speaker), The Woman in Black / Jennet Humfrye, Stella
Related Symbols: Pony Traps
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Woman in Black LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Woman in Black PDF

Pony Traps Symbol Timeline in The Woman in Black

The timeline below shows where the symbol Pony Traps appears in The Woman in Black. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Christmas Eve
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
...ever saw it. One afternoon, many years ago, Arthur was driving through town in a pony trap —a small, two-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage—with his partner at his law firm, Mr. Bentley. Having reached... (full context)
Chapter 5: Across the Causeway
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Keckwick pulls up outside the Gifford Arms in a shabby pony trap . Arthur was expecting a car and driver, but is equally eager to take a... (full context)
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
...the bright clear sky and the “sheer and startling” beauty of the marshes. As the pony trap draws near to the Nine Lives Causeway, Arthur realizes it is little more than a... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Sound of a Pony and Trap
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 9: In the Nursery
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
...the front of the house, and the noise intensifies—Arthur realizes that the sound of the pony trap drowning in the muck he heard before was indeed a ghostly apparition. Arthur stands still... (full context)
Chapter 10: Whistle and I’ll Come to You
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
...Exhausted and terrified, Arthur collapses on the front lawn as the sound of an approaching pony trap echoes down the causeway. (full context)
Chapter 11: A Packet of Letters
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
...that he was so worried about Arthur he could not rest, and drove his own pony trap out to check up on him. Arthur is relieved that the sound of the pony... (full context)
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
Arthur climbs up into Samuel Daily’s pony trap , and Daily sets Spider on Arthur’s lap. As they move across the causeway, Arthur... (full context)
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
...papers he has just read, and the story they illuminate. He now understands that the pony trap carrying Nathaniel and his nursemaid had somehow veered off into the marsh and been swallowed... (full context)
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
...planned to take him away; before she could do so, though, Keckwick—the family’s driver—steered his pony trap carrying Nathaniel and the boy’s nursemaid into the marsh during a sudden fog. Jennet watched... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Woman in Black
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Gothic Horror Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Isolation and Trauma Theme Icon
...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... (full context)