Narrative Analysis – Liam Higgins

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The Woman In Black Promotional Poster

The Woman In Black


The protagonist (Arthur Kipps) possesses a good profession to his name, being a young lawyer located in London. However due to a misfortunate death of his wife after giving birth to his son, he is clouded by depression and constantly engages in reminiscence during the opening stages of the film. After being offered a last chance at the law firm by his stern boss, Mr Kipps is given a job by his employer to complete in a country side village. The job granted is to sell a large derelict house which was previously owned by someone named Mrs Drablow. When he visits the Eal Marsh House he is challenged by a numerous amount of spiritual occurrences, which demonstrates that the house is haunted. Mr Kipps was informed by the local villagers that the ghostly black figure he spotted is eager to gain revenge. The villagers state that the spirit (Mrs Drablow) had lost her child in previous life, and seeks to victimise other children due to this.

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Enigma: Why Did These Young Children Jump Out The Window? (Opening Scene)

The narrative structure used in the Woman in Black is mainly linear, however elements of non-linear structure are used. Throughout the movie constant flash backs are shown which disturbs the formation of the movie. However, these flashbacks allow the audience to gather more information about the topic and provides an insight into the connotations of certain scenes. For example when Arthur is travelling to his destination via train, he has a flashback about his wife during birth. However, the full story is not shown which creates thought for audience and can be seen as an element of enigma. Eventually later on in the film, the missing part to the puzzle is fulfilled and we are shown that Arthur’s wife had actually died during birth to his son. This non-linear aspect grants the audience a missing piece of the story, and creates understanding for events that occurred earlier on within the film. Such as during the opening scene where Arthur is having a shave and a women whispers “Arthur” from behind him. However, once he turns around no one is in sight which causes the audience to question that mysterious situation.

In relation to Propp’s model of roles, it’s clear to the audience that Arthur is the “Hero” within the narrative. As he has a mission to complete, which can be identified as selling the house and sorting out Mrs Drablow’s documents. Sam Daily can be recognised as the “Donor” due to his help and valuable support towards Arthur throughout. He remains loyal to Arthur and provides him aid when he’s at his lowest, providing Arthur with a companion (Dog) to keep him company during his fearful stay at the Eal Marsh House. Arthur’s boss can be seen as the “Dispatcher” to the audience as he sets up Arthur’s mission during the opening stages of the movie. Keckwick can be represented as the “Helper”, although he was unwilling to agree to Arthur’s change of destination for free. He still transported Arthur from A to B… Without Keckwick’s transport, he would have been unable to reach his destination. Mrs Drablow (The Woman in Black) can be regarded as the “Villain” due to her revenge thirsty attributes, as she seeks to cause death for children to avenge a matter that occurred during her lifetime.

Many aspects of Todorov’s Model are implanted into the narrative of The Woman in Black, a state of equilibrium is provided when he becomes associated with Sam Daily. This is clear to the audience because he is provided with food, and given advice concerning his job at Eal Marsh House. However, a disequilibrium is delivered when he is visiting the local village and sights a burning house… Inside the house was a young girl who was being possessed by the Woman in Black, after this moment the storyline changes from his original aim.

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“You Could Have Saved Him”

Barthes enigma code is applied to this film frequently, throughout the film hints are given that are later fulfilled. When Arthur attends to a meal with Sam, his insane wife starts uncontrollably carving a hung person into the table. This causes suspicion for the audience and causes them to wonder why… We are later given another piece to the puzzle when we are shown for a split second an image of someone being hung above the rocking chair. Beneath the wallpaper read “You could have saved her”, which gives the audience enough information to conclude that this is how Alice’s child died.

Liam Higgins

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