How does Hill create a sense of the inevitable?

The sense of the inevitable increases our sympathy for Kipps as he is sucked into a tragedy where illogical, irrational hatred and evil falls upon him almost by chance. He is in no way responsible for what he suffers. As Hill builds the tension and he is sucked inexorably towards his horrible fate, we are chilled by the coldness of evil as it forms its grip upon him.

[T] The retrospective framing narrative [A] shows us how the story will end almost before it begins. [E-L] Mary Shelly uses this technique in Frankenstein [A] to build tension and [L] Hill uses this gothic style in a similar way, [D] except that Hill doesn’t close the loop by returning fully to the ‘old’ Kipps. [A] The effect is that there is no proper closure in her story – as there is in Frankenstein. The final chapter in The Woman in Black is just sliced clean off with the word ‘enough‘. This creates a particularly disturbing effect, because there is no proper solution or redemption (purpose to the suffering). There is only the powerful sense that evil will inevitably destroy physically and emotionally.

[T] Hill chooses first person narration to let us experience the dark events first hand. Kipps’ voice is inflected with the semantic fields of evil, misery and suffering. [E] He uses words like ‘no pleasure’, ‘morose’, ‘poor’ and ‘raw’ in Christmas Eve, [A] which is at odds with the usual festive mood of such a time. He frequently uses the word ‘drear’, ‘dreariness’ and Hill sets the book in November, evoking the famous tense, doom-laden passage from Frankenstein. These indicate his vulnerable emotional state: clearly he has been broken in some way. The tragedy of the book then, is more than inevitable: it has already happened. The mystery is not – if – but how things will go wrong. We have the semantic field of hell when he is in the fog in ‘A London Particular’: ‘sulphurous yellow light’, ‘Inferno’, ‘red-eyed and demonic’. It is as if hell raises from his subconscious.

Hill also uses the misty weather to create a sense of powerlessness, to trap Kipps in the crucible of her story where he will be unable to escape. 
semantic fields
symbolism – the idea of drowning, children/lost innocence, isolation – and parallels
pathetic fallacy
gothic conventions
contrasts, juxtaposition
sensory language > onomatopoeia plosives, sibilants, liquids, congested sounds
builds tension with the pace


1. Make sure you have an overall theory about WHY the writer is creating these effects? What are the particular reasons she deals with the inevitable in the way she does? Can you make links and spot similarities and differences to other texts, e.g Frankenstein and The Turn of the Screw.

2. Make sure you keep your argument tightly focussed on what the question is asking. Every few sentences, do a check. Are you explaining about the inevitable (from one angle or another) or are you setting up a point about the inevitable. If not, re-focus.

3. Make sure you analyse in enough detail, e.g. if you say x is similar to y: explain why – what is the reason or the effect? Four or five sentences of analysis would be good. Make sure you link across key scenes in the novel as a whole.