Study Guide

The White Darkness Sex and Sexuality

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Sex and Sexuality

"How many boys have you snogged?" There is no right answer. You say "none" and you're sad and frigid…. You refuse to answer and you are sadder still […]. (1.13)

From early in the book, we understand that Sym feels out of step with her peers when it comes to developing an interest in boys. Her lack of interest is a source of isolation for her.

Why is it that all the words to do with sex are ugly? Words to do with love aren't. No wonder Titus thought women were a nuisance. (1.14)

Is "snog" an ugly word? Or is it that Sym finds sex to be ugly for some reason? It isn't clear, so we'll let you mull that one over for yourself.

I could feel my cheeks burning, my guts churning. What's wrong with me? Is there something wrong with me? (1.76)

Sym worries that her lack of interest in boys is a deficiency or a problem, and she longs to be just like everyone else. Growing up definitely isn't easy, and being yourself can be so hard.

Then he kissed me on the mouth and told me again not to tell my mother. (9.65)

Sym and Sigurd sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Oh, and BTW, this is Sym's first kiss. While Sym totally doesn't notice it, Sigurd's using kissing as a way to make sure she doesn't call her mom. Ugh.

While we kissed, I couldn't quite help thinking, "Well, that's my diploma in Kissing out of the way." […] I'm not sure kissing ought to be a thinking kind of pastime. (10.57-10.58)

Though Sym seems to be maturing, she's still very self-conscious. She's also ambivalent about kissing, which isn't as all-consuming as she expected it to be—she can totally still think about other things while locking lips.

What nursery am I locked in that I can't get out and go downstairs and join in the grown-up games? Can't want to join in? Am I like those poor kids who wait and wait for their growth spurt and it never comes? (12.93)

Worse than the realization that she's not interested in sex is the concern that she may never be interested in sex. Sym just wants to be like everyone else. Fun fact: Plenty of people aren't interested in sex and lead totally happy lives.

This was what I wanted: the quaint, chivalric chastity of my beloved Edwardian. . . (12.99)

Part of the reason Sym sees Titus as a good love interest is the fact that he's unavailable. For one thing, he's dead. But even when he was alive, he was from a more laced-up culture.

How do you do it in the Antarctic is this: First you have to take off your overmitts, then your big jacket, then your quilted shell jacket, then your fleece jacket and glove liners, your neck gaiter and body bib […]. (18.10)

Sex scenes in Antarctica are decidedly not hot. Which isn't exactly surprising, given the environment.

"Wow! God, I'm sorry! Fourteen! God! All the men at Aurora were trying to pluck up the nerve to ask you out." (23.56)

Even though Sym feels immature on the inside, it sounds like she is perceived by others as totally dateable. Interesting, right? What do you make of this disconnect? Does it change your assessment of Sym at all?

"Keep in touch, won't you?" I say. "I'm planning on being older in a year or two." (23.61)

Sym's flirting here, so ooh la la. Seems like all that worrying was for nothing—she's maturing just like everyone else, after all. Everyone develops at their own pace, yo.