53 pages 1 hour read

Tana French

In the Woods

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2007

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Symbols & Motifs

The Woods

The woods loom large, in a symbolic and physical sense, throughout the narrative. They are described in vivid detail at various points in the story. The woods can be either enchanting or ominous depending on Rob’s perception at the time. Initially, Rob paints an idyllic scene for the reader:

The wood is all flicker and murmur and illusion, its silence is a pointillist conspiracy of a million tiny noises—rustles, flurries, nameless truncated shrieks; its emptiness teems with secret life scurrying just beyond the corner of your eye […] These three children own the summer […] They scramble through its trees and hide-and-seek in its hollows all the endless day long, and all night in their dreams. (2-3)

After his friends disappear and he loses his memory, Rob retains a fragmentary image of the woods as he knew them—blue sky and wind sighing through a huge expanse of grass. However, this association pains him. He describes it as a blank test pattern.

In some sense, Rob blames the woods for spiriting his friends away. In his mind, the woods are no longer a physical location but a malevolent entity, like the fairy tale witch who lurks in the forest and steals Hansel and Gretel.