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Currently Reading, The Woman In White

November 6, 2007
Will Miss Halcombe die? I hope not but I’m afraid she may, oh but I don’t want her to. I’m currently reading Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. Normally I will read a plot overview so I can dive into theories and other fun literary play but I promised myself this time I will allow time to discover the plot as it unfolds. It is killing me. Oh how I hate that Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. Both make me sick to the bone. Sir Percival Glyde has the privilege of being a baronet with property however, he has been so reckless and irresponsible that he has to marry a woman for her money. Now that woman may be murdered so he can get his greedy hands on her fortune, only to squander it as well I’m sure. How I hate that Sir Percival Glyde. Even so, I hate Frederick Fairlie more, with all of his fabricated hypochondria. His solicitor, his family’s solicitor, Frederick Fairlie’s niece’s solicitor (all the same solicitor, LOL) warned him that Sir Percival Glyde was only after Laura’s money and what does Frederick Fairlie do? He signs her over, leaving her defenseless. UGH! Since I have been reading so much vile and hatred spewed at heterosexual woman I am quite interested in Laura Fairlie’s (now Lady Glyde) plight. She is petite, white, blond, from a family of great fortune, is married (heterosexual privilege) to a baronet. She possesses all the societal qualities that so many label as privilege. And what has become of her? She is imprisoned (literally), she may be murdered or have her identity stolen (there are some hints to this happening) and there is no one at her disposal for help. Yet, her prototype is the model of heterosexual privilege, liberation, and envy. I’m disgusted. She is privileged to the opposite of most every oppression other than sex. Yet as a woman, she is still imprisoned. But, by god, she has privilege, even if it is an imitation of privilege, we still must treat it as the real thing. We must seek it out, rake it over the coals, burn it, scold it, bark at it, spit on it, destroy it, make it a shadow of its shadow self all while we fail to go after the original privilege, the savage privilege, the Privilege,–the patriarchy. Let’s forget the mission of recoginising the privilege heterosexual women may have and there will be someone around to remind us as sure as Count Fosco’s omnipresence! When Lady Glyde manages to get herself out of her prison, perhaps, she can go denounce her great privileged life on the village green. Will there be happiness then. Will crabs in the barrel be happy that now there are more crabs stuck in the barrel?

Okay away from that point. Wilkie Collins is a sexist prig. He is the Victorian times liberal dude. The guy who appears to be down with the cause of women but at the end of the day males are depicted as the superior. Each time it looks as if a narrative may expose a woman as being more than a helpless being he puts her right back in that position. And he does it with elaborate and unapologetic condescension. One instance in particular is how he has Miss Halcombe attack her own sex and openly declare her limitations, limitations not of the institutional type but of her own deficient female faculties and sensibilities. If Miss Halcombe, the strongest woman among the lot is a weakling then what is it saying about women as a whole.

The English boys in their quest for domination use Italians. Although two examples cannot rightfully be called a pattern I find it interesting that both Collins and D.H. Lawrence (some sixty years later), insert something Italian in their text when praising the taming of a woman. In order to elevate Count Fosco’s cunning intelligence and in turn prove how he is to be feared, Collins lets us know that the Count managed to coerce his wife into submission, no big feat for the times, however the Countess before her marriage to the Count was a staunch feminist, a leader of feminist rebellions. So the Count did not just tame any old woman, he tamed the most resistant woman of all. Lawrence on the other hand employed the art of Italian lovemaking (anal sex). That is the term used in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors already steals the heart of Lady Chatterley but it is not before he is able to penetrate all the openings of her body that he feels he has won her over. Incidentally, Lawrence, another liberal dude of his time, believed women should submit to men and that without that submission the relationship is doomed to fail.

How I love reading literature, especially fiction. It gives us a milieu to sort out potential situations without involving anyone personally. Oh but of course the naysayer will claim that reality is never similar to fiction. There is that literal mind for you Momo

*This post is brought to you by the spirit of Anne Catherick.

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