The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Book: The Woman in White
Author: Wilkie Collins
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Synopsis of today’s discussion
Opening of The Woman in White
Plot and Structure of The Woman in White
Different Narrative Voices of The Woman in White
Major Characters of The Woman in White
William Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889) was an English novelist and playwright. Born in 1824 Victorian England William Collins is highly applauded for his novels like
No Name (1862)
He wrote around 27 novels and several plays and numerous short stories.
He is regarded as the father of modern detective fiction. His father was a well-known landscape artist. Though he was named after him, his father William Thomas Collins, he was better known by his grandfather David Wilkie’s second name.
He studies law at Lincoln’s Inn. He never acted as a lawyer but in his novels, we find a trace of his ist legal knowledge.
In 1851 he was introduced to Charles Dickens and they became a lifelong friend.
His famous play is The Frozen Deep (1857)
It was co-authored by Charles Dickens.
His most popular work The Woman in White (1859) is a perfect symbiosis of murder mystery and madness.
Opening of The Woman in White:
The plot of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins opens with Walter Hartright’s meeting with a woman clad in all white. She has fled from an asylum. The lady in between her conversation with Walter mentions her connection with Mrs. Fairlie late owner of Limmeridge House.
Walter informs her about his new job as an art teacher at Limmeridge House where he is going to join immediately. Walter helps her to get a car and she bids him goodbye kissing his hand.
In the opening scene, the author inaugurates a mysterious, eerie and uncanny atmosphere that sets the tone of the novel.
The storyline of The Woman in White :
A young painter Walter Hartright is from a middle-class family. He lives with his mother and sister. He gets a job as a drawing teacher at Limmeridge House. There he falls in love with Laura Fairlie, half-sister of Marian Halcombe. Now Laura resembles the woman draped in white whom Walter meets on his way to Limmeridge and who escaped from a mental asylum. Her name is Anne.
Now though Walter and Laura love each other their love story gets upset as Laura had to marry the vicious Sir Percival Glyde. He is the owner of Blackwater Park in Hampshire. Walter leaves Laura with a heavy heart and resumed his journey. But he comes back and rescues Laura from the heinous plans of her husband. The great lovers united at the end of the novel.
Plot and Structure of The Woman in White:
The book is divided into 3 parts
Part-1 First Epoch
Part-2 Second Epoch
Part-3 Third Epoch
Again these parts are divided into several chapters and subchapters. It is quite a lengthy reading and sometimes you get lost in the labyrinthine plot and innumerable characters.
But the tension and conflict never go amiss…the thread of anticipation goes vibrant with palpitation.
Different Narrative Voices of The Woman in White:
The huge bulk of the novel and numerous chapters introduce you to multiple narrative voices sometimes the story is told from the point of view of Walter Hartright sometimes from Vincent Gilmore, Marian Halcombe, Frederick Fairlie, Eliza Michelson (Housekeeper at Black Water Park), Hester Pinhorn (cook of count Fosco) etc. Even there are certain narratives like a doctor and tombstone.
Every narrator adds a distinct voice and interpretation to the novel.
Anyway, among all these narrative Voices Walter Hartright is the most powerful and he leads the trajectory of this novel to a greater extent. He is the chief narrator you can say.
Major Characters of The Woman in White:
Walter Hartright – He is a drawing teacher aged 28.
Laura Fairlie – 20-year-old -Heroine of the story. She loves Walter but was bound to marry Sir Percival Glyde as she promised her father in his deathbed.
Marian Halcombe – Laura’s half-sister. She is intelligent and sensible.
Frederick Fairlie –He is the Uncle and guardian of Laura and Marian.
Anne Catherick – She is the woman whom Hartright met at the opening of the novel. She is the woman in white. She has some eccentricities in her behaviour and depression syndrome. She is the illegitimate daughter of Laura’s father.
Jane Catherick – Anne Catherick’s mother but her behaviour is unmotherly. She hand in hand with Mr. Glyde sent her daughter to the asylum.
Sir Percival Glyde – Laura Fairlie’s fiancé and Laura later married him. He is a cunning immoral man. He sent her wife to asylum and forged her money. He tried to prove Laura as dead in the place of Anne.
Count Fosco – He is a brilliant villain whose brain bolstered the criminal activities of Glyde.
Eleanor Fosco – Laura Fairlie’s aunt and she is Fosco’s wife. She has no voice of her own.
Professor Pesca – An Italian teacher and Walter Hartright’s best friend. He helped Walter in detangling the knots of mystery.
“This is the story of what a Woman’s patience can endure and what a Man’s resolution can achieve.”
A dark black gothic shadow overflooded the chapters and creates an uncanny sensation that keeps one fixed in the pages. I love to read this novel as a prime example of mystery and conspiracy and also as a love story where a determined lover turns every stone to unfurl the mystery to rescue his lady love from her doom and danger.
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