Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black puzzles me.
You will know that is a novel designed to scare you and that the ghost of the woman in black is capable of murderous cruelty-little wonder you may say that the last line of the novel is just a single word: ‘enough’ ironically invoking the final utterance perhaps of Christ on the cross where he says: ‘Consummatum est’. Could a narrator say anymore after the dreadful killing of his wife and child by the eponymous ‘woman in black’?
Devastatingly finished even if not finished with?
Yet the other day whilst teaching, something niggled away about the Hill novel. And this is my question: why is the woman in black so powerful dead, yet when she was living she was oppressed in terms of her class and economic status?
Death gives her a perverse liberty in terms of power.
Death has no hierarchies, no class system, no economic stratification.
If Macbeth pays the price for his supernatural temptation, Hill’s ghost remains at mysteriously free at the end of the novel. We do not know where she is, if she has satiated her desire for revenge or if she is a revenant at large, still wandering about, wreaking havoc.
Arthur Kipps is only free from her as he has no more relationships tender enough to inspire jealousy.
He has settled for the lukewarm for the safety of all concerned.
Here’s a video I made a few months back on the way the woman in black is presented.
The Woman in Black
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