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The Woman in Black - Dialogue

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at dialogue in Susan Hill's The Woman in Black. Dialogue, in literature, is the term used for any direct speech. Dialogue is an essential part of characterisation since it gives the reader important information about each of the characters. The style and content of the dialogue give you clues which allow you to form a mental impression of each character. Dialogue is also an important way for an author to instigate action, keep the plot moving and show how characters develop.

A practical approach to thinking about dialogue in a work of fiction is to compare and contrast the speech of different characters. How is the speech of one character differentiated from that of another? Do the characters exhibit differing vocabularies, or speech in distinguishable registers? Who speaks formally, and when? Who uses slang or dialect, and when, or to whom? What patterns do you detect?

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Much of The Woman in Black represents Arthur’s memory of his thoughts and feelings as he responded to the shocking events he experienced at Eel Marsh House. Even direct quotations are presented as Arthur’s recollection since the entire novel is related as his conscious decision to record his own memories. As a consequence of this, in addition to his isolation for the few days he undertook his job of sorting Mrs Drablow’s papers, dialogue is not as frequent in this novel as it is in many others.

One of the ways you can revise for a literature exam is by memorising dialogue. Try to choose a few key lines for each character, linking these lines to an important theme of the text. This technique will help your memory and also help you to identify which quotations might be useful for answering particular types of exam questions.

The quiz below asks you to remember which character speaks the words. Think about what makes the quoted dialogue important before answering. Why do particular words belong more obviously to one character, rather than another. Could another character utter the same words? Why, or why not? What does this tell you?

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Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.
  1. "I am sorry to disappoint you, but I have no story to tell!"
    Arthur refuses to tell his family a Christmas ghost story, even decades after the events at Eel Marsh House took place
  2. "I don't think I ever told you about the extraordinary Mrs Drablow?"
    Mr Bentley makes Mrs Drablow sound merely eccentric, a "rum 'un", as he also describes her
  3. "You are backing away from speaking out the truth of the matter, which is that I should not find a soul willing to spend any time out at Eel Marsh House"
    Mr Jerome refuses to explain why he is convinced no one will be willing to take a job helping Arthur sort through Mrs Drablow's papers
  4. "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 towards me even less, but I have convinced myself that it is a power that cannot do more than make me feel afraid"
    Arthur shows himself to be entirely unaware of the power fear will come to have over him. The Woman in Black will also prove to be capable of causing significant physical harm
  5. "Of course, things may have changed, I may be quite mistaken...things may be in apple-pie order and you'll clear it all up in an afternoon"
    Mr Bentley warns Arthur that Mrs Drablow was disorganised. His warning is somewhat of an understatement!
  6. "You'll find everything hospitable enough at Crythin, for all it's a plain little place. We tuck ourselves in with our backs to the wind, and carry on with our business"
    Samuel Daily describes the attitude of an isolated, self-reliant community
  7. "I wouldn't have left you over the night, wouldn't have done that to you"
    Keckwick knows what Arthur must have experienced his first time alone at Eel Marsh House and comes out in the middle of the night to fetch him back to the village as soon as the mist has cleared and the tide has receded
  8. "There are stories, tales. There's all that nonsense. [...] You can discount most of it"
    Mr Jerome finds it difficult to warn Arthur without seeming to be superstitious
  9. "He is mine. Why should I not have what is mine? He shall not go to strangers"
    These words are not spoken, of course! Jennet writes them to her sister, Mrs Drablow
  10. "You, if you are lucky, will neither hear nor see nor know of anything to do with that damned place again. The rest of us have to stay. We've to live with it"
    Samuel Daily explains why local people are so reluctant to discuss the terrible history of Eel Marsh House and the devastating effect the ghost of Jennet Humfrye has had on the inhabitants of the village

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