Continuing thoughts on Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White (part 1)

I’ve just finished the first epoch, and since I want to keep up dialogue with all the other people who are doing the Woman in White readalong, and also because this is such a freakin’ long book, I thought I’d just write sort of…short discussion/review things every few days. Instead of one big review? You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t sound entirely coherent– I’m not feeling too well at the moment, for some reason. Anyway. I’m going to copy Leila and break this up into sections.

When I last left off I was just starting chapter XI in Walter’s narrative, so I’ll continue on from there.

Walter XI.

  • It is a little alarming how Walter keeps attributing every strange thing that happens to the Woman in White situation, but if he didn’t think that I would think he was being obtuse, so…Yay for Walter being paranoid?
  • Re: the letter: I think it’s so funny how people in the Victorian times could determine a person’s class just from how they wrote– is it even possible to do that today? I wouldn’t think so.
  • Re: Glyde’s age: Walter says “Forty-five; and she was not yet twenty-one! Men of his age married wives of her age every day: and experience had shown those marriages to be often the happiest ones. I knew that– and yet even the mention of his age, when I contrasted it with hers, added to my blind hatred of him.” Okay, so, a) I agree with him that though it’s gross it was also a common occurrence (though I’m not sure about the “happiest” thing), b) Laura is twenty?! She acts so much younger. I thought she was something like 16-18, and then how old is Marian? Why does Marian act so much more like an adult than Laura does? Has Laura just been infantilized all her life because she’s pretty and delicate/fair/prone to crying or something? Ugly people must grow up quickly, while beautiful spring flowers must languish in childhood? Ha.
  • That whole infantilization thing is just backed up by the fact that Marian refuses to show or tell Laura about the letter. I understand that Marian is worried about how she’ll take it, but c’mon! Stop coddling her, for Pete’s sake.

Walter XII.

  • Investigation! Detection! And other things that move the story along quickly! I actually wish this part had lasted longer, mostly because it starts giving us answers to things. I WANT. MORE. Answers!!
  • Marian took a strange turn, here. I feel bad for the kid who saw the “ghost,” especially because Marian was so set against him and I was expecting rather the opposite!
  • I think Marian is just superstitious about certain things but doesn’t want to admit it. When she shows Walter her mother’s grave and then leaves him down in the village, I got the impression that she was scared of something. (Ghosts?)
  • How much do I love active Walter, though? Keep fighting against your dullness, Walter! It makes me like you more!

Walter XIII.

  • God, that whole scene with Anne and Walter was heartbreaking. I wasn’t sure if she was actually mentally troubled until then, but now it’s pretty obvious. Though it doesn’t mean she deserved to be put into an asylum! Poor woman.
  • Walter handled her very well, however, especially when she started to freak out.

Walter XIV.

  • I think Marian has a bad habit of not listening to her instincts. I’m sure this’ll bite her int he butt later, especially since she even says “My mind misgives me sadly about the future.” Listen to yourself, Marian!!
  • Another strange Mr Fairlie thing. I can’t tell now if he’s just stupid and negligent or if he has some more sinister motive for ignoring his family and hiding in his room.

Walter XV.

  • Mr Gilmore = playboy? (OLD playboy?) I don’t get the significance of his lavender gloves, and there’s nothing in my endnotes about it. Why is it okay for a clergyman to wear purple gloves and not a lawyer? Eh?
  • One thing that annoys me about Victorian England is how people who are of high class, who have “a reputation above suspicion,” in fact, are always overlooked as potential killers/villains/etc. and instead the crime is blamed on a vagabond or something. It annoyed me in the Sherlock Holmes stories, and it annoys me here, too. Especially because later Marian tries to convince herself that Glyde is not a villain based solely on the fact that he can defend himself from elections and because he looks good with a bald forehead. (More about that later.)
  • Up until the parting scene between Walter and Laura, I wasn’t sure if she actually felt anything romantic for him or she just felt uncomfortable because his interest in her was encroaching on her thing with Glyde. But that scene showed that, yeah, she loved him, too. Poor Walter.

Now we switch narrators, with Mr Gilmore-the-dashing-old-lawyer taking over the story.

Gilmore I.

  • I was surprised that Gilmore considered Walter his friend. They didn’t seem all that cozy when they first met, but maybe they become friends later?
  • I do not understand all this “life-interest” stuff, but I assume it has something to do with who’s allowed to live at Limmeridge and who isn’t (and who gets the money the estate brings in).
  • Don’t believe Glyde, Marian! It’s a trap! Or SOMETHING. Something BAD.
  • Funny how Marian wishes that Walter were there, because I do, too. Walter would for sure have seen something suspicious in Glyde, and not just because Glyde’s marrying the woman Walter is in love with. It seems to me that Walter can make connections between things better than Marian can, maybe because he’s less worried about attributing something horrid to a person of a higher class than him (or just high class in general).

Part II will be up tomorrow Wednesday, with the rest of Gilmore’s narrative and then Marian’s.

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0 thoughts on “Continuing thoughts on Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White (part 1)”

  1. “…if he didn’t think that I would think he was being obtuse, so…Yay for Walter being paranoid?”

    HA! That made me laugh. I had a similar thought during the graveyard scene — I wondered if the Woman in White had been like that before she was in the asylum or if she was like that because of her time in the asylum. (I’m leaning towards the latter…)

    I haven’t read your bit about Gilmore’s section yet, because I haven’t started that part yet!

    I hope you’re feeling better! (And if you aren’t, I hope you feel better soon.)

    1. I do think she was a little bit off before she went into the asylum, but that her time in the asylum exacerbated it. In Marian’s mother’s letter she mentions that Anne was a little weird, but I don’t think she would have had that edge of “dangerous psychotic” then as she does now.

      And thank you! I am feeling better today, yes. 😀

  2. It seems every blog I read has recently mentioned at least one Wilkie Collins book. My mom is a big fan of Woman in White and The Moonstone, and she’s been bugging me to read them for years. Now I definitely have to read either one, since so many people have been enjoying them! Ah, daughters never listen….

  3. “How much do I love active Walter, though? Keep fighting against your dullness, Walter! It makes me like you more!” I totally, totally agree with you here. Jeeeze, when he does nothing but mope around and whine about his love for Laura I just want roll my eyes and gag. Maybe that’s a tad strong. But anyway, I was very excited when I moved onto Gilmore’s narration.

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