Hartright’s account of Sir Percival Glyde’s death appeals to the visual and aural senses to subliminally accentuate a happiness that would be inappropriate, by Victorian standards, to express in correlation to Glyde’s passing. The juxtaposition of the “dazzling brightness of the fire” to the “murky, starless sky” during the burning vestry scene symbolizes a satisfying shift from darkness to illumination; this shift implies that Glyde’s death will eradicate the obscurities that conceal the secrets within The Woman in White (Collins, 463). Since illumination is typically linked to the acquisition of knowledge, a fire is the perfect plot device to signify new opportunities.
Although Hartright’s actions display that he is working diligently to save Glyde from the rising flames, his melodramatic inclusion of details suggests that his actions betray his intentions. Hartright attempts to prove that “All remembrance of the heartless injury the man’s crimes had inflicted; of the love, the innocence, the happiness he had pitilessly laid waste; of the oath [he] had sworn in [his] own heart to summon him to the terrible reckoning that he deserved- passed from [his} memory like a dream (Collins, 463- 464.)” However, Walter’s overcompensation to assure the readers of his noble empathy in which he “felt nothing but the natural human impulse to save him from a frightful death” is something that I cannot buy.
During his description of Glyde’s escape attempts, Walter claims to “hear the key worked violently in the lock” from the other side of the door (Collins, 463). The violent imagery of this sexual euphemism, regardless of whether it represents a literal occurrence, suggests that Hartright is thinking about Laura Fairlie and her function within her marriage as a reluctant lock that refuses to yield to her husband’s overbearing demands. Congruently, I believe that as the light from the fire becomes “brighter and brighter,” Walter becomes increasingly more exuberant.