The Woman in Black - Character

This GCSE English Literature quiz asks questions about The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The Woman in Black is narrated by its central character, Arthur Kipps. Other figures who feature in the novel are his employer, Mr Bentley, his friend, Samuel Daily, his fiancée, Stella, his wife Esmé and her children, the landlord of the Gifford Arms, and Keckwick, the driver of the pony and trap which conveys Arthur across Nine Lives Causeway. Mrs Drablow and Jennet Humfrye, who are both dead at the time of Arthur’s visit to Crythin Gifford, play important roles in the tale nonetheless. Because Arthur narrates his own tale, the audience perceives events and other characters through his eyes. Stella, for example, is a fairly shadowy figure, evoked whenever Arthur thinks of home and comfort. She appears in the novel only twice: once when she comes north to accompany Arthur home and then again at her tragic death.

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Arthur is a self-reliant man in his business life, although he appreciates the presence of his family at home. This characteristic is ideally suited to a ghost story which involves the main character not really believing the dark hints and suspicions local people nervously share with him. Arthur’s only companion on the island is the dog, Spider, who provides him with some comfort when he confronts the terrors of the house.

Always pay close attention to the way in which characters interact in a work of fiction, or, in this instance, the way in which a narrating character represents others. With first person narration, our view of other characters and their motivations is limited to whatever Arthur himself knows, although he also has the benefit of hindsight since he writes down his recollection of the events surrounding his visit to Eel Marsh House long after these occur. Thus, although we can see that he himself has changed over time, we are not able to perceive such character development in others. Instead, we discover the mystery behind the ghost of the Woman in Black.

Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in The Woman in Black.

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  1. Arthur Kipps is employed in which profession?
    Arthur works for Mr Bentley's law firm, Bentley, Haigh, Sweetman and Bentley
  2. "Then, my boy, go home and pack your bags, and take the afternoon train from King's Cross, changing at Crewe and again at Homerby. From Homerby, you take the branch line to the little market town of Crythin Gifford." What do these lines tell us about Mr Bentley?
    By calling Arthur, "my boy", Mr Bentley reveals himself to be rather paternalistic as a boss. The reader already knows this detail of his character from learning that it is at his suggestion that Arthur buys a house in the countryside
  3. Who is Esmé?
    Esmé represents the restoration of a sweet, feminine, domestic presence long after Arthur's loss of Stella
  4. Puzzled by the landlord's abrupt behaviour after learning his business in Crythin Gifford, Arthur dismisses his remarks as "local tales and silliness which had grown out of all proportion, as such things will do in small, out of the way communities, which have only themselves to look to for whatever melodrama and mystery they can extract out of life." What do these thoughts tell the reader about Arthur?
    Arthur confesses that he "had the Londoner's sense of superiority in those days, the half-formed belief that countrymen, and particularly those who inhabited the remoter corners of our island, were more superstitious, more gullible, more slow-witted, unsophisticated and primitive, than we cosmopolitans"
  5. Samuel Daily might be described as which of the following?
    Mr Daily always seems to know what Arthur will need; he gives Arthur the dog, Spider, to be a reassuring presence on the island and also turns up to rescue Arthur when he is in serious danger and has almost become trapped in the tidal mud
  6. Which of the following characters might be described as vengeful?
    Arthur reads one letter in which Jennet Humfrye threatens to kill herself and her child rather than let him be taken away and Mr Daily reports that she threatened her sister with violence unless she could see her son. Her vengeful nature is revealed most clearly in her ghostly afterlife
  7. The narrator describes Mr Jerome as bland, professional and courteous, with a "shuttered expression". What does this phrase mean?
    Mr Jerome's blandness and closed expression serve as a protective feature since he must attend to the affairs of Mrs Drablow even though he has personally suffered the loss of a child through the Woman in Black's malevolence
  8. What does the reader know of Stella's character?
    We do not know much about Stella's character, understanding much more about Arthur's feelings for her. She represents blissful domesticity: Arthur often imagines their domestic life together. When she comes to meet Arthur and accompany him back to London, her warmth and friendliness means that she is able to entice Mrs Daily to speak
  9. When Keckwick returns to the island in the middle of the night after being delayed by the sea-fret, he says to Arthur, "I wouldn't have left you over the night, wouldn't have done that to you." What do these words display of his character?
    Keckwick comes out in the middle of the night because he knows how terrifying the island can be and does not wish Arthur to suffer. This means he empathises with Arthur's feelings, even though he hardly knows the lawyer and barely spoke to him on the outward journey to the house
  10. How does Arthur respond to the events he experiences during his first few hours on the island?
    He berates himself for his "foolish independence and blockheadedness in ignoring all the hints and veiled warnings [he] had received"

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