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The Woman in White

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 4 (988 words)
Categories: Character, Collins, Literature
Downloads: 26
Views: 486

That stock-type is not the character but it is as necessary to the character as a skeleton is to the actor who plays it. “Thus, with regard to the characterization of comedy, three types of characters appear and they seem closely related to some of the characters of romance. First, the villain, who represents to some extent a “menace”, who threatens the true heroine and who is always a sinister figure. Secondly and central to the group too, is the hero or the heroine, often a weak character.

Thirdly, the last central figure is the type entrusted with hatching the schemes which bring about the hero’s victory.

The characters

This character evolves into the amateur detective of modern fiction. According also to Northrop Frye, the world of ghost stories, thrillers, and Gothic romance belongs to the sixth phase of comedy as it “ranges from the most savage irony to the most dreamy wish-fulfilment romance”, its structural patterns and characterization being much the same throughout its range.

A device similar to the subsequent detective novels Basically, the detective novel raises an issue to be solved, with imagination as a starting point. Eventually the problem can be solved by reasoning and rationalization.

Characters fulfil their relative functions and their sphere of activity is clearly delineated. If we apply that definition to “The Woman in White”, the fundamental elements necessary to the setting and the unravelling of the intrigue are present. Taking its roots in the world of the Gothic romance, the intrigue is carefully planned, as is also the increasingly complex unravelling. The villain, the heroine-victim, the amateur detective, that is the three main types of characters, contribute to the plot just as they do in a detective novel.

However it seems difficult to extend that similarity further, for The Moonstone, written by Collins later in 1868, was described by T. S. Eliot as “The first, (… ) of modern English detective novels”. Nevertheless, “The Woman in White” deals with the unmasking of a crime by one of the characters belonging to that fundamental triangle, exemplifying Collins’ ability to portray them with a fidelity in advance of some more famous Victorian novelists. As he made a point of honour to get factual details correct, he endowed not only the male figures but also the female ones with intellect, passion and strength of will.

Both illustrate his skill in building characters within or without the contemporary conventions of fiction. Who are the main protagonists? Anne, the woman in white, at the centre of the web. Her figure appears at the very beginning of the story. The author does not give a full description of her as she is to play the part of a mystery-woman dressed in white, and, as such, her function is to contribute to the atmosphere of fear: “This is all that I could observe of her in the dim light and under the perplexingly strange circumstances of our meeting. ”


Anne is to appear only twice in the novel. However her main characteristic is her strong resemblance to Laura Fairlie and as such she is central throughout to the unravelling of the plot, for without her existence the Secret and the wholesale ramification of deception that permeate the novel are nothing. Laura Fairlie: a conventional heroine Laura, too, plays the part of an innocent girl. She is also to be the victim of foul machination, Sir Percival’s eagerness for her money. Walter Hartright describes in some detail his own portrait of her, so that, in a sense, Laura is a picture, – So often sung by the poets, so seldom seen in real life, (… ) A fair, delicate girl (… ) with truthful, innocent blue eyes, that is all the drawing can say. She is sweet-tempered and charming, and certainly is as conventional as a lot of girls of her time of similar rank and situation. At that time the word conventional conveyed even more meaning than it does nowadays: it meant, for a young girl, to be shy and reserved, to be respectable and respected; not to have any personal opinions and to consider man to be the great master, the one she must obey.

Nevertheless, occasionally, she shows more spirit than we would be inclined to give her credit for. She would not always submit to male superiority, as was then common practice. When she refused to sign Sir Percival’s document, “a mere business formality”, she did it quietly and firmly, despite the uncompromising attitude of her husband who openly and violently outrages her: “You wouldn’t understand. I am your husband and I am not obliged [to explain]. ” (269) Her half-sister, Marian, found, – an expression in her eyes which, throughout all my experiences of her, I had never seen in them before.

Sir Percival and Count Fosco

If this scene shows her clear-sightedness, the trap nevertheless is to close on her. The vulnerability of these women reinforces the vileness of the two criminals, Sir Percival and Count Fosco, of whom the latter is a striking personality. The two villains. Count Fosco: the great male character of the novel Although he has little or no say for he only testifies in writing, he not only towers above all the characters of the novel with his great height and weight, but he is also a highly intelligent man, and a skilled criminal.

Collins took great trouble in portraying Fosco. Indeed his appearance is worthy of a theatrical character’s entrance. He is introduced by Marian Halcombe when he actually appears for the first time in the second “epoch” of the novel. She gives the reader a detailed physical description of him. Indeed he is larger than life: – He is immensely fat (… ). His features have Napoleon’s magnificent regularity. [He has] unfathomable grey eyes. He dresses in the oddest way and has a fancy for white mice, a “vicious” cockatoo, canary-birds, and opera.

Cite this essay

The Woman in White. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-woman-in-white-13115-new-essay

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