In my own view when it comes to deciding which of the texts is better, I would prefer “The Woman In Black”. This is because the author has a distinct way in which she builds up the dark, ominous mood of the book. Conversely, while both of the texts are categorised as ghost stories, they differ in many aspects.”Let us, then be introduced to the actors in a placid way, let us see them going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by foreboding, pleased with their surroundings; and into this calm environment, let the ominous thing put out it’s head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds the stage.”- M.R.Jones – Ghost Story Writer 20th CenturyThe narrative devices used in WIB are used to great effect.
For example, when the author tries to give clues to the future, she provides them very obviously when needed.”‘Children?”Children.’ Mr Bentley fell silent…
..’No, there were no children.'”Here, it is shown that children are a key clue to the proceedings of the story. It is shown by the characters reaction to the word. The paragraph is ‘lengthened’ by the way that is described. This emphasises the point about childrenThis theme is repeated many times throughout the text, each time the clues are built up slightly more. However, in TS, the clues are subtler.
“…instead of looking up..
.he turned himself..
.and looked down the Line.”In this passage, when the narrator calls down to the Signalman, the Signalman looks down the train line, instead of above him, which is where the voice was coming from. His reaction seems very odd, but as the rest of the story unfolds, it seems there is a method to his madness.In WIB, the narrator the most important narrative device.
The narrator is also the ‘victim’, as it were, of the hauntings. Which means that he is able to describe his feelings first hand to the reader.”It was as though I had become paralysed..
.I was certain…I would drop dead on that wretched patch of ground.”Here, the narrator is able to express his feelings and thoughts in great detail.
This is very effective in making the reader understand and sense the significance of certain points.Seeing as the narrator is experiencing these hauntings, he is much less likely to fell sceptical about the idea of the supernatural.Also, the narrator starts off as being a sceptic, brushing off all talk of the ‘supernatural’ as being fiction. Later, as the narrator learns from his haunting experiences, he becomes more of a believer. The narrator is made a sceptic so that he seems believable by the reader, and as the narrator becomes less sceptical, so too should the reader.On the other hand, in TS, the narrator is not giving a first hand account of the hauntings, as he is not the one being haunted.
Instead, he is being told by the signalman about the hauntings. He can only make an informed opinion about how the signalman must feel., and never entirely believes the signalman. This is less effective in making the reader feel the emotion of the hauntings.In TS, the narrator is also cynical about talk of ‘ghosts’ and such, and is sympathetic for the signalman, because the narrator thinks he is making absurd ideas.”This was a remarkable coincidence, calculated deeply to impress his mind.”He narrator, however, he does feel as if the man can’t be making these ‘stories’ up for no reason at a later stage.To set the atmosphere in the WIB, the author picks an isolated town, and decides to set the novel in the past.
This would mean there would be a small community and there wouldn’t be things like phones and such. This all helps to create an atmosphere of isolation for the narrator. The author has time to build up the atmosphere.The mood of the story is dark and foreboding.
This tone is created by the whereabouts of Eel Marsh House. It is across a Causeway, which blocks off temporarily. It is surrounded by mist. This adds to the mystery of the place.
The attitudes of the local residents towards Alice Drablow and Eel Marsh House seem ignorant and superstitious to the narrator.When Arthur Kipps asks Mr Jerome to accompany him to Eel Marsh House, he refuses and doesn’t want anyone else from the town to go with Arthur.”His (Mr Jerome) pale domed forehead was beading with perspiration.”It is plain to see here that Mr Jerome is showing signs of anxiety towards Eel Marsh House and it’s past.When Arthur Kipps first arrives in London, he comments on the “filthy, evil-smelling fog…
that choked and blinded.”Here the author is personifying the fog, so that it is easier to imagine. The thick fog helps to create a sombre atmosphere, one of melancholy and prepares us in some way for the subsequent events of the novel.However, in TS there are some similarities in the way that the author creates atmosphere. For example, the descriptive language used by Charles Dickens helps you to visualise “The Line”.”Crooked prolongation of this great dungeon..
. little sunlight ever found it’s way to this spot.” This helps to establish the isolated foreboding atmosphere. However, the next line is also very interesting:”As if I had left the natural world.”To the narrator, this place seems to have an unearthly aura to it, one of evil and despondency. I think it is a good description of the cutting. It aids you in feeling what the narrator feels when he enters this place.Also Charles Dickens doesn’t have enough time to build up the atmosphere, that’s why it starts off built up, instead of a slow explanation and then a climax.
Unlike in WIB, we are not told about the past of the ghost, the narrator or the signalman, we are just ‘dropped into the middle of it’ as such.The structure of WIB is very fitting with the template of a ghost story by M.R.James.
It starts off with the narrator, Arthur Kipps, going about on a routine workday, unaware of what the future holds for him. He is summoned to go to the funeral of a Mrs Drablow. At the funeral, the ‘ominous thing’ puts out it’s head ‘unobtrusively’ when he sees the WIB, not knowing that it is a ghost. After that, the hauntings become more and more insistent, until they do take centre stage to the book. This fits perfectly with the template, and is another example of the fact that the book is a ghost story, not just a thriller.The language used is descriptive when needed, and the hauntings are frequent and increase in effect each time.Be that as it may, TS does not fit in with the template of the ghost story, yet it is still regarded as a ghost story.
In my opinion, this is because of the fact that it still deals with the idea of ‘hauntings’ but in a different way and order. Each haunting is one part of an altogether larger ‘message’ t the signalman, except that the signalman does not understand the whole message. He doesn’t realise it is for him, and is not just a warning that an accident is about to happen. It is ironic that the spectre forecasts the signalman’s own death.At the ending of WIB, there is another climax, an unexpected one, the death of Kipps’ wife and child. It is unexpected in that the narrator describes a peaceful, happy Sunday afternoon in summer. Also, the reader is made to believe that, because Arthur has ‘solved’ the mystery, there will be no more deaths resulting from the ghost.
This is a ‘red herring’, which makes the ending somewhat sudden.The narrator describes festive holiday air, stalls selling ice creams etc. The mother and child go on to a pony and trap, and are enjoying the ride, when he sees the dark, enigmatic figure of Jennet Humfrye. The ‘happy’ atmosphere is turned into a sinister, threatening, evil atmosphere.”All the world went dark around me..
.shouts and happy cries of children faded.”Arthur has ‘zoned out’. He feels as if he has been transported back to the isolated, alien world he would care to forget.He describes the revived feelings he senses from the ghost, the love and revenge for the death of her child.”Yet I felt all over again the renewed power emanating from her, the malevolence and hatred and passionate bitterness.
It pierced me through.”The contrast between good and evil comes into play again.”They asked me for my story. I have told it – Enough.”The last line is rather abrupt, but shows the feelings of Arthur Kipps, having told his story.
It seems to me, he says it in a way that shows that writing down his experience hasn’t actually helped him progress past it, instead it is making him relive it.Although in TS, the ending is also an unexpected climax. The signalman is killed by a train, and the driver shouts out and gives the same gesture as the spectre did to the signalman, so the signalman thinks it is another ghost and ignores it.The ending makes you think about the past hauntings. The hauntings don’t actually warn the signalman, paradoxically they are perhaps the reason why the signalman is killed in the end.
For, if he had not heard those same hauntings time and time again, he might have actually realised that the words from the driver were real.Also, it makes you wonder, that the ‘warnings’ were not only from the spectre, but also from the narrator himself. The ending also still leaves many things unexplained. Surely the signalman would have heard the sound of the train? Even if he thought the words from the driver were from a ghost.In conclusion, it is clear to see that although the two texts differ in many ways and both strive to get the same response from the reader, the longer novel “The Woman in Black” is more effective because it is not confined to a short space, time and place.