By Beth McConnell – The novel and film The Woman in Black, offers a plethora of themes and ideas. Focusing on the notions of motherhood, trauma and the past the story generates discussion surrounding these ideas. Many predict that motherhood would have been the main area of discussion for the classic tale. This would then lead onto an interesting debate on the representation of the women, or lack there of in the novel/film adaptation.
It was suggested that the spectre of the woman in black was created by Arthur as a coping mechanism concerning the loss of his wife and child. The spectre offers an alternative, supernatural explanation to them being taken from him and also masks his own feelings of guilt. That he may have been able to have stopped the carriage accident in which they died. With consideration of the author, Susan Hill having experienced losing a child, it was notified during the seminar discussion that the modes of coping with trauma similar between Hill and Arthur. The woman in black was written by Hill to vent her feelings of grief and guilt, as does Arthur.
The issue surrounding motherhood is prominent theme in both the novel and the film. The mothers are unable to fulfil their duty as ‘women’ of that time period and thus generates a critique on the nuclear family unit. The gothic genre often deals with real-life controversial issues in addition to the supernatural. The woman in black embodies both of these traits.
Despite addressing the representation of women being in a negative light; possibly a reflection of Hill’s own trauma and feelings of having failed as a mother. Feminist theory does not feature as the main area of debate. It’s regretful, as Gilbert and Gubar’s Madwoman in the Attic, could have been applied here. The woman is trapped in a deserted realm, rejected when alive from bearing a child out of wedlock and having her maternal role taken from her. The woman in black only exists as a mother-of-death figure, unable to give life, but instead take it away.
Both the film and book spark some very interesting discussions on the topics of motherhood, trauma and the past. Through discussion it becomes apparent that the idea of the past, trauma and motherhood overlapped greatly and were essential to the analysis of The Woman in Black. Through research on the author it’s possible to provide explanation of how these significant themes of the text may relate to her own experiences and could have inspired her to write the novel as a form of coping with her own past and trauma. One of the most important concepts is the fact that the themes we addressed all seemed to coincide throughout both the novel and the film, in order to capture the essence of the gothic fiction.