Susan Hill weaves an awareness of the supernatural throughout the story through the plot, the structure, the use of language and imagery. The Woman in Black is a ghost story and therefore the idea of the supernatural is intrinsic to the whole work.1 The whole point of a ghost story is to frighten, thrill and entertain. Before the reader starts the story, he or she has to put aside any disbelief he or she may have in the supernatural in order to enjoy the experience.2 The classic ghost story has many elements, the main one being the ghost itself, in this case, the woman in black. A ghost is the spirit of a dead person who comes back to earth in order to settle old scores and complete any unfinished business.3 The woman in black is the spirit of Jennet Humfrye whose child was twice cruelly taken from her. For this, she (unreasonably) blames her sister Alice Drablow and has returned to earth to haunt her and exact revenge on all who are involved in her affairs.
The word ‘supernatural’ means beyond what is natural, and in the novel supernatural events are seen as products of evil.3 Arthur Kipps is haunted mercilessly by the woman in black until he is filled with terror and loses all that is dear to him. In the nursery, the rocking chair moves on its own, making a sinister rhythmic sound. An eerie whistle which Kipps knows does not come from human lips lures Spider to his near death. The nursery door is mysteriously locked although it has no lock or bolt and then, just as mysteriously opened. All these events defy reason and are therefore supernatural in nature.4
The opening chapter of the novel provides a framework for the story. In it the idea of a ghost story is introduced. The reader is familiarised with the background of Kipps, his state of mind, his belief in his own sixth sense and his willingness to accept Christmas is a holy time where the innocent are protected from evil.5 The quotation from Hamlet which he recalls from his...
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