Queerness and Fosco: A Very Strange Man

“He was a big fat, odd sort of elderly man, who kept birds and white mice, and spoke to them as if they were so many Christian children.” (400)

Every good story has a good villain, and The Woman in White is no different. In many ways, Count Fosco embodies the same villainous characteristics we see today, specifically in Disney films. From his physical body to his foreignness to his obsession with animals, Count Fosco is your classic villain, there to terrify the reader and thwart the plans of the good and pure Walter Hartright.

Firstly, Count Fosco is a physically distinct man. This is something every single person who meets him seems to focus on. Much like other villains in stories he is on one extreme of physical size “big fat.” In a room full of, I’m assuming, skinny people, he stands out. Another very important aspect of Count Fosco is that he is not of Britain but Italy. In fact, he is one of two non-British characters in this novel. What’s more is that it is revealed later that Fosco was part of “the Brotherhood,” as a secret society that has branches all over Europe. Immediately in Victorian England, this is cause for suspicion. Fosco. Fosco is no different. He “kept birds and white mice” which definitely adds to the weird vibes the other characters pick up from him. What is weirder still is that he “spoke to them as if they were so many Christian children.” He seems to see them as filling the space for actual children, which he does not have despite being a married man in Victorian England.

So what does this have to do with Fosco as a villain? Such as we see in popular culture, any characters outside the norm are typically evil. What else is outside the norm, especially in Victorian England? Being queer. Fosco’s strange family dynamic in combination with his oddities makes him a prime character for the queer-coded villain trope. He terrifies readers and characters alike, continuing the tradition of queerness being something evil.

(Blog Post 2)

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