Study Guide

The White Darkness Tone

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Tone

Exciting, Introspective, Imaginative

Adventure novels are sort of like Tom Cruise action movies: They often sacrifice depth in order to emphasize a fast-paced plot. Not so with The White Darkness, which pulls off a neat trick in successfully balancing an action-packed plot with Sym's bouts of deep introspection.

Frequently, Sym has important realizations about herself and others in between her battles with the elements. "The hatred I felt for Bruch was nothing to what I felt for myself," she thinks at one point:

All along I had my doubts about miniature fossil hands for sale on eBay. And what had I done about it? […] Too afraid of crossing Victor, of losing his good opinion, I stowed all my misgivings out of sight, like dirty magazines on top of a wardrobe. Every crime like this needs someone like me to look away and say nothing. (14.90)

The heaviness of Sym's emotional problems is offset somewhat by the book's imaginative tone. Her imaginary boyfriend, Titus, is a big fan of Real Talk, but he's also very funny. There's a certain sense of whimsy in various plot points, including those imaginary conversations, Victor's crackpot theories about Symmes's Hole (and other eccentricities), and Manfred and Sigurd's impersonation of Vikings. Which is good, because things can get pretty heavy—and high stakes—too.

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