Study Guide

The White Darkness Mortality

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Like Antarctica, Sym's heart is a veritable graveyard in The White Darkness. She is haunted by three central deaths: her father's, Titus's, and the prospect of her own, which seems increasingly likely as she navigates the treacherous landscape (the first two occur before the story begins). As the story progresses, the body count racks up to include a nameless journalist, Manfred Bruch, and Victor.

Sym's struggle to come to terms with all this loss is mirrored in her final face-off with the elements. As she struggles through wind and snow, Titus forces her to face what happened to him: "OATES IS GONE! His body was food for the leopard seals and the crabs" (21.93). This helps Sym realize how much she wants to live just in the nick of time.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Whose death seems to weigh most heavily on Sym: her father's, her uncle's, or the prospect of her own? Explain your answer.
  2. Why do you think Sym didn't kill Uncle Victor? Back your answer up with proof from the text.
  3. How does Sym come to terms with her father's death? Be specific, please.

Chew on This

Sym learns a great deal about life—including how much she values it—when she is faced with the prospect of her own death.

Sym's experience in Antarctica helps her come to terms with her father's death.

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