Young Adult Lit/Crit

February 9, 2008

White Darkness Lit Circle

Filed under: WHITE DARKNESS — Joyce @ 6:51 pm
Hello everyone,

Thurs night we had a great discussion about The White Darkness in our lit circle and I just wanted to share a few moments of that.

 First, we discussed how feminist theory might work in a read of this book. The protagonist is a girl, Sym, who is very naive throughout most of the book. Because of her lack of street smarts, we all found it difficult at first to find her relatable and credible. Her mother was also very naive, almost to the point of being impossibly unlike a mother figure. These observations would make for a good launching point into a discussion on how these characters are dependent upon the men around them, and gender roles, and sexism.

Another way to look at the book, we thought, would be through reader-response theory. All of us suspected that the “uncle” was being set up as a sexual predator, but in the end things took a different turn. We had to ask one another: why did we all have that idea in our heads, when it was off base. (In a metaphorical reading of the text, perhaps an argument could be made to that effect, but literally it was not the case.) A discussion could ensue regarding our expectations, and reasons for them culturally and personally.

One other aspect of our discussion centered on the text’s complexity.  There were several aspects of the story line that presented catch-22, for intance: the main character is lonely so she has an imaginary friend. However, her relationship with this imaginary friend inhibits her from reaching out to make new friends.

Those are just a few of our observations, I’m sure the other ladies will add to this.,,1566479,00.html

The author’s website is listed just above. Geraldine McCaughrean won the Carnegie Medal in 2005 for this book.

Her ”Book of the Moment” is called Peter Pan in Scarlet, and it seems to have a much more magical sort of vibe to it than TWD. Searching her site yields several more adult fantasy novels, and a number of stories for children in topics that range from Biblical to Shakespearian, Pirate stories to Fairy Tales. She seems to have a wide range.




  1. I just got this from the library! I can’t wait to read it.

    Comment by mandygrl101 — February 11, 2008 @ 10:49 am

  2. I thought those of you who talked about WHITE DARKNESS would find it interesting to see what prof. of libary studies at E. Carolina U had to say about it today in an ongoing conversation about the novel on one of the listservs I belong:

    “Interesting observation and quite opposite of my own. I saw Sym as an abuse victim and like so many, goes along with the abuser as she really doesn’t think there is an option. Even at an early age Sym was told to keep Victor’s “experimentation” on her a secret. A child wants love and if that means from the “uncle” rather than the father, it is not surprising that she went along with him, even though she intellectually knew what he was doing was wrong. It had to be okay because he loved her – right?

    Abuse victims will protect their abusers right up to the bitter end in many cases. I see Sym a very strong character who does whatever she has to to survive, both in the clutches of a totally mad “uncle” or while trying to survive against the extreme weather of Antarctica. The fact that she depended upon an imaginary internal creation of an explorer she admired for his strength is not surprising. She is going to be loved by someone, even an imaginary someone. I was fascinated by this book and the internal conversation she had with Oates.” KES

    Comment by sunyprof — February 11, 2008 @ 4:33 pm

  3. Wow, great read. Thank you for sharing that comment.

    In many ways I am inspired by this line of thinking. For instance, Sym as an abuse victim is not only physically deaf, but emotionally deaf. Dependent upon love(as we all are) to thrive, Sym is inhibited in her ability to really listen to her uncle’s true intentions. Additionally, she creates a safe place to exist that is modeled on a constructive love (and acceptance)- a love that is given to her by an older gentleman (Oates) with good intentions.

    There is a duplicity in these two characters (Uncle Vic and Oates)and, perhaps, in fact- the role of the father figure can be seen in triplicate; there are three possibilities of Sym’s paternal order: the absent father, the abusive father, and the ideal father. These overlap one another as well, as her dead father is absent, but in his final monthes he was abusive. Her abusive father (Uncle Vic) is also ideal in the sense that he is physically present and filling the void of her biological father’s absence. Oates is ideal, but he is absent/imaginary.

    Just to name a few variations on that theme.

    Again, great book.

    Comment by joycehansen — February 12, 2008 @ 12:08 pm

  4. I had never thought of Sym as an abuse victim, but after suggestion, I can see how this is possible. Joyce, I think you come up with an interesting idea about the triplicate father figures-another one I had not really thought about. It seems as though we could have an entire lit circle discussion just on the father figures!

    Comment by katefrazer — February 12, 2008 @ 4:37 pm

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