Friday, August 23, 2013

The Woman in White and the Sensation Novel

Considered among the first of mystery novels, this 1859 novel centers on the unfortunate position of a married woman at the time. And let me tell you, ladies. Put your hands in the air like you just don't care and be thankful that you did not grow up in the Victorian era.

Victorian novels generally follow the theme of "difficult lives in which hard work, perseverance, love and luck win out in the end; virtue would be rewarded and wrongdoers are suitably punished." The Victorian novel had a sub-genre emerge in the 1860's and 70's, dubbed the 'sensation novel.' Equipped with murder, kidnapping, insanity, forgery, theft, adultery, illegitimacy, identity theft, mystery, twists, turns and a lot of "what the fuuuuucccckks," The Woman in White had the quintessential sensation novel requirements. Sensation novels busted out on the scene and gave those good-guys-always-win Victorian novels a back seat.

The Woman in White had wonderful writing and plot twists for days. I have never loved a book so much while equally hating every character.
Laura Fairlie: no personality, idiot, selfish, incapable of anything. Why does everyone love you?
Marion Halcombe: you seem awesome, why waste you life looking after no-personality Laura?
Walter Hartright: you are talented, why also waste your life looking after no-personality Laura?
Woman in White: if you could have been prescribed xanax we might have been friends
Sir Percivalughhhhh
Count Foscoblaaaaah
Countess Foscobiiiiitch

Author Wilkie Collins "borrowed" the plot from a book of French crimes, Recueil des Causes Celebres by Maurice Mejan, which had events and characters that were incredibly similar to The Woman in WhiteThe meeting of Walter and the woman dressed in white is also allegedly based off of a real life occurrence in Collins' life in which a woman in a long white dress ran screaming up to him, begging for help.

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