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The Treatment of Female characters Wilkie Collins a Woman in White

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Introduction

An essay on the treatment of female characters in Wilkie Collins' novel: The woman in white "What the devil did Mrs Catherick want at this house?"... Wilkie Collins' The Woman In White is a book of mystery, madness and escape. Wilkie Collins uses the idea of madness to capture mystery and playing with the idea of the unknown. At the time Victorian reactions to people with any type of mental problems were to instantly lock them up. In The woman in White Collins uses different language and perspective to portray differences in treatment towards women and explores their relations with Male characters in the book. Wilkie Collins explores how three women all brought up in the same way, take different paths in life and have different relationships with Males in the novel, he also shows how, a typical quaint man, with nothing complicated about him, can travel on a journey from an art teacher, to a masculine Heroic figure. Collins creates a big confusion of gender types cleverly within the novel, with male characters having feminine traits, and female characters having strangely "male friendships" with male characters. Walter Hartright is Probably the main character focused upon for the most part of the novel in The Woman In White. ...read more.

Middle

The way she thinks, speaks and acts, implies she would feel comfortable being in a males position. She even says "If I only had the privileges of a man, I would order out Sir Percival's best horse instantly, and tear away on a night-gallop, eastward, to meet the rising sun", this gave me the impression, she considers life as a male often and can identify the benefits. Also, unlike other women, she thinks outside the box, she considers the larger picture. For example, no ordinary woman would ever consider going against a male, or challenging his thoughts or ways. Marian does this in conversations with Walter often, expressing herself clearly, which, in Victorian times, was unheard of in an ordinary home. Marian also says (in the quote above) "If only I had the privileges of a man" which again, gives evidence towards her wishes too be a man, which any middle or upper class Victorian, would find strange and perhaps even assume the Woman in question had something wrong with her mind. Throughout The Woman In White, Walter becomes a hero, not just for Laura, for everyone. However, his role of detective would not have gone nearly as well or straight forward as with the help of Marian Halcombe. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is weak and very feminine for a man of high position like a count, it shows weakness and strangeness in Fosco's Personality. Yet Marian still seems slightly obsessed with him, constantly thinking to herself about him and perceiving him in different ways. Gender in The Woman In White is a complicated topic, it is purposely made like this by Wilkie Collins, as I believe it is the main part of this novel, there are so many twists, turns and confusions in the Gender of this novel, it is hard to focus and analyse it at times. But the main focus in this novel, is the swap in gender roles. I think Wilkie Collins based a large part of this novel on the fact that there are so many Gender changes, so as to make it different from any other published or unfinished novel written at the time. He achieves this well, by cleverly using Gender specific characteristics and aspects to create strange "break-the-mould" characters such as Marian, Fosco and Frederick Fairlie. But he then goes further, to create clich�d characters such as Laura and Walter, then mixes them up well with the stranger characters in the story. This creates twists and turns in the story, with a surprisingly balanced finish at the end. ...read more.

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