Study Guide

The White Darkness Chapter 20

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Chapter 20

"It Was Not A Very Big Hole." –Oates

  • On the advice of Titus, Sym makes some compresses for her sore eyes. She's sunburned and scattered, unable to hold her thoughts together.
  • She wonders about her mother. Will she ever find out what happened to her and Victor? Victor says he and Lillian "have an understanding," but Sym doesn't buy it—she's no longer entertaining his lies.
  • Sym and Victor take shelter from a blizzard, and when they emerge, Victor thinks they're close to Symmes's Hole.
  • Reminded of Sym's father for some reason, Victor shares another fun fact: Not only did he murder her dad, he's also the author of her deafness. Hold up… what?
  • Victor was experimenting with antibiotics, see, and gave them to Sym in strong doses. This is what caused her hearing loss.
  • As they drag the sled along, Uncle Victor thinks he spots some of the alien people who live in the earth's hollow. Nope, it's just a mirage.
  • Sym realizes the ground they're standing on is hollow—there's just a thin sheet of ice between them and the sea. She tells Uncle Victor to move, but he's just waving at the alien people mirage like a lunatic.
  • Sym has another realization: They're in the Devil's Ballroom. And as the name suggests, this is a very, very bad place.
  • Victor begins hacking at the ground with an axe. Sym is freaking out. She hates Victor, so why's she still trying to save his life?
  • Victor has found some sort of ice formation that looks like a chimney. Ah, he thinks to himself. I should stuff myself down it like a deranged Santa Claus. Pure logic, yo.
  • Wait, scratch that: Victor wants to stuff Sym down the ice chimney first. Sym is not amenable to this plan, and she kicks him in the head.
  • Convinced they've found Symmes's Hole, Victor reverts to Plan A: stuffing himself down the chimney. Sym tries to convince him to wear a harness.
  • Victor wears the harness. Then he takes it off and disappears down the ice chimney. Presumably, that's it—he's dead.

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