“The Woman in White” or “The Men Who Take over the Entirety of the Novel”?

Within the novel by Wilkie Collins, the reader is encountered by various perspectives, of mostly men, as well as aspects of Victorian literature, such as sensation and superstition. Towards the end of the story itself, answers of questions regarding the plot and its purpose are brought forth. In particular, Count Fosco in his narration, expands upon the idea of identity and altogether, what Anne Catherick and Laura Fairlie preserved for these men. He states,

“The whole force of my intelligence was now directed to the finding of Anne Catherick. Our money affairs, important as they were, admitted of delay–but the necessity of discovering the woman admitted of none…when coupled with the additional information that Anne Catherick had escaped from a madhouse, started the first immense conception in my mind” (600).

In the excerpt above, Count Fosco explicitly remarks on the ‘hold’ Anne Catherick has on himself, as well as how she has consumed his thoughts. Through the word choice and phrase, ‘the whole force of my intelligence’, one is able to fully understand that Fosco is infatuated with Anne Catherick, due to the ultimate bearing she has upon him. Furthermore, with the addition of the following sentence, where monetary aspects are supposedly pushed aside, it causes the reader to actually question whether or not this is ultimately true. As recounted in class, Collins employs hidden meanings when he brings forth an aspect and then quickly remarks on the fact that it is quite simply ‘no big deal’, or in this case, ‘admitted of delay’. From this sentence added, Collins characterizes Fosco, and other men within the text, as being infatuated with women as well as money.

Not only does Fosco recount how Anne Catherick and Laura Fairlie are inherent with aspects of money, but he also includes Sir Percival. He states,

“Lady Glyde and Anne Catherick were to change names, places, and destinies, the one with the other–the prodigious consequences contemplated by the change being the gain of thirty thousand pounds, and the eternal preservation of Sir Percival’s secret” (600).

Explicitly shown above, Fosco speaks on themes of money, 30,000 pounds, as well as Sir Percival’s secret. In relation to the text entirely, it is quite interesting that he begins by talking about the women within the novel, and then turns to how they have a direct effect on wealth. Throughout the entirety of the novel, we as the reader, have seen instances of wealth being the ‘end-all-be-all’ of most situations including women. In regards to Sir Percival’s secret, it is ironic that the secret, of him being an illegitimate child, is thus told by Mrs. Catherick to Walter, and ultimately scarred. Essentially, the fact that wealth is involved only heightens classism, and social standing acquired, truly answering the question of what the novel is truly about…males and money.


2 thoughts on ““The Woman in White” or “The Men Who Take over the Entirety of the Novel”?”

  1. Oh how accurate this title and perspective is in regards to “The Woman in White.” This whole narrative has the air of masculinity and superiority, even in the female narratives. I think this concept is interesting to put in conversation with Marian’s narrative. We’ve talked about her as a more masculine female character so I wonder what power she possess as being the only female narrator with such a lengthy narrative.

  2. First off, I love the title of your post and the concluding sentence because I find them so accurate. Thinking back to Rathbone’s perspective, we can see that women were often regarded as incomplete without the connection to men. He uses the term “existences manquées” to describe women who are unmarried (159). I find this perspective interesting because in relation to the WIW it suggests that Laura and Anne are only interesting and worth listening to when they are brought into relation with men or in some way relevant for them (in this case Walter). It almost seems like Walter would not trust women to take control. This also becomes evident in the ending. As we discussed in class, Walter would not even give Marian the last words of the book but he still had to interfere and keep the last words because Marian’s were not sufficient to him.

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