Study Guide

The White Darkness Versions of Reality

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Versions of Reality

I watched so intently—concentrated so hard—that there was no sofa, and no screen…no whine from the fridge or thump from the central heating. And it became real. So real. So real. So real. So real. So real. (2.5)

When Sym's father is dying, she fully immerses herself in the world of a TV show and one of the characters—Titus—becomes real to her. Or something like real, anyway.

I like to do my dreaming when I'm awake; but I didn't say so, because that would sound loopy. (4.52)

Sym is a champion daydreamer, perhaps to a fault. Sometimes she's more interested in what's going on inside her own head than the world around her. She senses not everyone would understand this, though, so she keeps it to herself.

Titus never says anything that I don't, in my heart of hearts, already know. (9.70)

The thing is, Titus does say some things that Sym doesn't know. So what does that mean? Could he be real? Could Sym just forget some of what she knows? What is going on here?

Sometimes I'm not me at all, you know? Sometimes, when I need to get away farther than usual, I'm Florence Chambers. (11.98)

Sometimes it's not enough for Sym to talk to her imaginary friend. Sometimes reality is so difficult that she has to pretend to be someone else entirely. Poor girl.

This isn't somewhere that you can trust what your eyes are telling you. Maybe Manfred had simply taken a minute or two to comprehend the danger of a naked flame. Or perhaps he had just been teasing. (12.7)

The thing is, Sym's instinct is totally correct in this instance: Manfred was not confused or teasing; he was definitely thinking about committing murder.

After Bruch's confession, it should not have surprised me that Sigurd came from Norwich and not from Norway. Yet I had no end of trouble separating him from the tissue of lies he had come wrapped in. (15.5)

Why do you think Sym has trouble accepting the fact that Sigurd is a con man? Is she genuinely confused? Or does she simply not want to believe it?

Also, since belief is optional in these parts, I'm choosing not to believe in the cut in my leg. This is not a good place for getting injured. (18.17)

Sym's cut definitely exists. Is she living in denial? Or is she simply redirecting her attention since she can't do much about it?

The mind's a three-ring circus! Music. Lights. Happiness. Wonder. Color. All my life I've gone there when Life got too drab or unkind or lonely or miserable, and it's hardly ever let me down. (22.2)

Sym daydreams to escape her difficult reality. It's a means of survival, a way of giving herself a boost in order to keep going.

When the bombs are falling, what's so clever about staying outdoors? Inside my head I've built this air-raid shelter. (22.59)

Sym's description of her imagination as an air-raid shelter is telling. She daydreams so she can continue living, slipping into her mind when the outside world gets to be more than she can bear.

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