The Woman in White includes countless characters who are not as they seem. For example “Sir” Percival Glyde reveals many layers of his identity throughout the story. First the reader is led to believe that he wants to marry Laura and that his intentions are in the right place. However, very quickly it becomes obvious that he is not in it for the right reasons, aka only for the money. Furthermore, the reason why Glyde is so desperate to marry Laura and obtain her money is because he does not have any. He is a fraud, an illegitimate child who created a fake identity in order to appear better than he actually was in society’s standings. Percival’s desire to keep his identity a secret reveals how dependent he is on his reputation and social status.
Who could wonder now at the brute-restlessness of the wretch’s life; at his desperate alternations between abject duplicity and reckless violence at the madness of guilty district which had made him imprison Anne Catherick in the Asylum, and had given him over to the vile conspiracy against his wife, on the bare suspicion that the one and the other knew his terrible secret? (pg. 510)
Hartright had no idea that this would be the reason for Percival’s paranoia. His desperation to keep his identity a secret destroyed the lives of two women solely based on suspicion. Percival looked and acted like a member of the nobility and therefore no one asked questions. His performance is so strong that he fools everyone until Hartright starts digging for answers. Perhaps the novel is suggesting that status does not necessarily mean all that it is built up to be but is rather all an act in order to compete in society.
Looking at how class was so closely tied to one’s life during the Victorian Era can be found in the Victorian Web readings as scandal and gossip were integral parts of society. ” Inthe Victorian period, scandals of all sorts proliferated in the popular press. In part as a result of the repeal of the stamp tax in 1855 and the paper duty in 1860, the number of newspapers in Great Britain multiplied, and they became cheaper, more widely available, and more national in scope.” Anything exposed from one’s private life was immediately absorbed into the public sphere. Therefore Percival did all that he could to keep his secret, even if it meant destroying the lives of two women.