Study Guide

The White Darkness Chapter 1

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Chapter 1


  • The book begins with a declaration of love: Sym, our narrator, is in love with a man named Titus Oates. And he's been dead for ninety years.
  • Sym says that, in her head, she and her dead boyfriend talk about anything and everything. As you do with your dead boyfriend.
  • Titus wasn't married when he died, Sym tells us, so while he may be undead, he is not committing adultery.
  • Sym tells us her Uncle Victor doesn't want her to get married. That suits Sym. She's got Titus, after all.
  • So Sym really admires this Uncle Victor guy. He's very smart, for one thing; he used to help her with homework when she was little. Interestingly, Sym's teachers thought Victor had the answers wrong. Huh.
  • Sym says her teachers don't know anything about Antarctica. Sym does, though. She's a little obsessed with it, in fact.
  • She recalls the night when her shelf of Antarctica books collapsed on her bed. It was the same night her dad was taken to the hospital.
  • Sym says Victor is the one who gave her most of these books. She never mentions all her special knowledge at school, though, because she knows people would make fun of Titus.
  • Unfortunately, she knows this out of experience: Once Sym mentioned Titus to her friends and they made fun of her mercilessly.
  • Sym describes a time when she felt super uncomfortable. Her friends were talk about snogging (that's British slang for "kissing," BTW).
  • Sym told her friends she didn't care about snogging; she was more into imagining. Her friends thought this was a real hoot (at Sym's expense), which made Sym, already an introvert, retreat into herself even further.
  • Surprise. Victor has arranged a treat for him, Sym, and her "mum" (we're in England, remember): They're going to Paris.
  • Sym's mum seems uneasy with the idea. She's worried about money, and she doesn't want Sym to miss school.
  • Victor is not worried about money or school, however, and Sym isn't either. She just wants to go to Paris.
  • Sym tells her friend Nikki she's missing their chemistry exam because of her trip. Nikki is jealous.
  • Nikki is reading a magazine. Titus (who, remember, is just in Sym's head) tries to figure out what some of the modern words mean.
  • Sym hasn't given her teacher her mother's note about the trip yet. She thinks her teachers don't like her because that's what Uncle Victor said.
  • In fact, Victor frequently visits the school for things like parents' nights. When he does, he always argues with the teachers.
  • Oh, here's Sym's friend Maxine. When she learns Sym's going to Paris, she asks if it's for a "dirty weekend," which she knows will make Sym uncomfortable. Cool friend, Sym.
  • Maxine talks about the Moulin Rouge and all the rich men she'd like to meet, while Sym grows more and more uncomfortable. Why do her friends want to talk about this stuff?
  • Nikki diplomatically tries to change the topic to museums. Good old Nikki.
  • Sym's at the train station with Victor and her mum. Uh-oh… Her mum's passport is missing.
  • So Victor and Sym leave her mother behind. Apparently the train tickets were for a particular time and they can't be changed. So, um, bye?

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