Study Guide

The Woman in Black Memory and the Past

By Susan Hill

Memory and the Past

Chapter 1
Arthur Kipps

Could I not be free of it at least for that blessed time, was there no way of keeping the memory, and the effects it had upon me, at bay… (1.64)

Arthur wants to never think back on that memory again, but it keeps resurfacing. Like an especially stubborn rubber ducky in the bathtub of life.

I was the one who, to judge by my agitation of this evening, was still affected by it deeply, it was from me alone that the ghost must be driven. (1.65)

Even after all these years, Arthur still feels the need to exorcise his demons. He can't quite get over what happened to him. (And we can't really blame him. Seriously, the guy watched his wife and child die.)

Like an old wound, it gave off a faint twinge now and again, but less and less often, less and less painfully… Of late, it had been like the outermost ripple of a pool, merely the faint memory of a memory. (1.62)

The thing about memories is that they never go away completely. Well, except for a convenient bout of amnesia. Wonder if Arthur could acquire one?

Chapter 2
Arthur Kipps

But what is perhaps remarkable is how well I can remember the minutest detail of that day; for all that nothing untoward had yet happened, and my nerves were steady. (2.7)

Young Arthur has no idea what's about to happen to him. They say hindsight is 20/20 and we suppose it's true in this case.

Chapter 4
Arthur Kipps

Had I known that my untroubled night of good sleep was to be the last such that I was to enjoy for so many terrifying, racked and weary nights to come, perhaps I should not have jumped out of bed with such alacrity… (4.21)

More reasons to stay in bed for an extra few minutes: so you don't have to get up and face a day that involves scary angry ghost women. Good enough for us.

Chapter 8
Arthur Kipps

…and because the cry of that child would never, I was sure, leave me for the rest of my life. (8.31)

It's hard to ignore the call of a child who appears to be dying in anguish, and we're betting that a ghost child is even harder to ignore. That's something Arthur and the woman in black have in common.

Chapter 9
Arthur Kipps

The sound that I had been hearing was the sound that I remembered from far back, from a time before I could clearly remember anything else. (9.58)

How's that for creepy? Arthur remembers the sound of a rocking chair from when he was just a little baby, and that's the same sound he's hearing now in this supposedly empty room. Talk about the past and present coming together.

Chapter 12
Arthur Kipps

All that was behind me, it might have happened, I thought, to another person. The doctor had told me to put the whole thing from my mind, and I resolved to try and do so. (12.1)

Arthur wants desperately to escape the things he's seen at Eel Marsh House, but it's not so easy to leave the past behind. And maybe that's not even the best way to deal with trauma—maybe we have to tell our stories if we want to get over them.

Oh, pray God it may not—that the chain is broken—that her power is at an end—that she has gone—and I was the last ever to see her. (12.11)

Talk about leaving us hanging. Is Jennet satisfied? Is she off to whatever afterlife is waiting for her? Or is she still lurking around, waiting for the next innocent life to ruin?

My story is almost done. There is only the last thing left to tell. And that I can scarcely bring myself to write about. (12.16)

Oh yeah, just one more tiny thing—the brutal death of his wife and child. No biggie. Hardly even worth telling, right?