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The Woman in White: What has Collins to say about class in "The Woman in White"?

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The Woman in White: What has Collins to say about class in "The Woman in White"? 19th century Britain was a very heavily divided nation, in terms of social status and class. The small, upper class minority were well educated and were the only people able to write novels, therefore only depicting England from their point of view. Wilkie Collins 'The Woman in White' gives an insight into the upper class lifestyle of Laura Fairlie, a seemingly stereotypical young Victorian woman. Collins uses this novel as a vessel to display some important points and views about the social class divide. Collins attitude to social classes is displayed fairly early on in the book, during the first meeting between Walter Hartwright and Mr. Fairlie. Neither of these characters is lower class, but they do have very different views on how the lower classes should be treated. Walter is sympathetic towards them, but Mr. Fairlie is most opposed to them and actually despises the lower classes, portrayed through his descriptions of his servants as "asses" and the children being "plebeian brats". ...read more.


This is both an excuse for Collins to accentuate the frailty of the aristocracy he wishes to display and to introduce a character to the story that he feels the bulk of his readers will be able to sympathise with. Collins brings the Woman in White further into the novel's equation by presenting a scene where Walter goes to the graveyard where Mrs Fairlie is buried. Here The Woman in White appears to Walter, the chilling, gothic atmosphere he has created for them to meet in adding to Anne Catherick's mystery. Their meeting would make the reader want to believe the Woman in White so that they aren't in favour of Walter and his highly frowned-upon relationship with Laura Fairlie. This situation creates a strong moral decision for the reader because they will have to choose whom to believe. Collins then shocks the reader by taking the side of Anne Catherick, the relative commoner, and fuels the moral dilemma. Collins uses Walter to purvey his view as Walter decides to believe Anne immediately as he reports to Marian. ...read more.


Don't forget; a woman in white...." Walter then repeats, "She has escaped from my asylum!" at the start of the next chapter to accentuate the reader's ever devaluing view of Percivil Glyde and to make a larger emphasis and shock on the fact that he imprisoned the heroine of the story. Percivil is later portrayed to be an incredibly devious and sly character when his and count Fosco's plan to kill the woman in white and exploit the likeness between her and Laura to put Laura in the asylum, claim she is Anne Catherick and keep the Fairlie estate for themselves. Largely, The Woman in White is used by Wilkie Collins as a method of giving across his view of the upper classes and in particular the aristocracy. Very rarely is an upper class character not portrayed as sinister or frail (the only people that do not fit these descriptions being Marian and Pesca). Throughout the book Collins displays a strong dislike for the upper classes and a sympathetic view of the downtrodden lower classes. ...read more.

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