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Literature: The Woman in White
Serialised Victorian novel written by Wilkie Collins. Run from 1859 to 1860.

Walter Hartright, a young drawing master from Victorian London, gets a job teaching art to two young women, half-sisters Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie, at Limmeridge house in Cumberland. He soon is tangled in a web of dastardly deeds involving an Arranged Marriage and a Mysterious Waif in the form of escaped mental patient Anne Catherick.

The book is often considered the first Victorian sensation novel, and has been adapted into a play, several films and an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

The novel provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Count Fosco.
  • Arranged Marriage: Percival Glyde to Laura Fairlie.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil
  • Author Appeal: Collins found the female form most beautiful when viewed from behind, so we got mention of Marian having a beautiful backside.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Isidor Ottavio Baldassare Fosco
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Laura is an adorable lady and Walter and Marian love her so much, and she them. Then her soon-to-be husband appears, and let the torturing of readers begin. She suffers terribly in her unhappy marriage, and she's a part of very evil scheme.
    • It's also implied that this happened to Anne. She was probably as pretty as Laura, but her mother neglected her. We meet her when she's broken already, though she does have a kind friend who takes care of her.
  • Butterface: Marian. Her gorgeous and perfect body is described in great detailed while she stands at the window. Then she turns around and... but her face. Walter didn't expect her to be ugly.
    • Girls with Moustaches: Marian Halcombe has one. It's part of her being more than simply plain.
    • When She Smiles: But for all that she's mannish and unfashionably dark-complected...
  • Chekhov's Italian Professor: Pesca, who ends up being responsible for Fosco's death.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Half the novel runs on this. But it was written in Victorian England, so nobody is surprised.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marian. Her precise sarcastic remarks are directed at nearly everybody. She has a soft spot for Laura and Walter, but even they don't always escape her snark.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Laura replacing Anne in the Asylum toward the end of the book.
  • Epistolary Novel: Though it's more in the form of diary entries rather than letters.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: When Sir Percival greets Miss Fairlie's "little Italian greyhound", it whines, shivers and hides under the sofa from him, then barks and snaps at him when he leaves.
  • Evil Uncle: Fosco is married to Laura's aunt.
  • Fake Aristocrat: As it turns out, Sir Percival's claim to rank and title is based on a forged marriage certificate.
  • Genius Sweet Tooth: Fosco, unless it's just part of his Villainous Gluttony.
  • Genre Savvy: Walter.
    • When he goes to share what he's learned with Fosco, he takes precautions so that, when he's asked "Have You Told Anyone Else?", he can assure Fosco that he has, and killing him would therefore not solve anything.
    • He happily makes a deal with Fosco that will get him what he wants but allow the latter to escape from the law scot-free because Walter assumes karma will punish him anyway.
  • Gold Digger: When the marriage settlement for Sir Percival's marriage to Laura is drawn up, his demands make it clear that he's after her money. Mr Fairlie nods it through anyway, over the strong objections of the family lawyer.
  • Identical Stranger: Anne and Laura, apparently ( Walter discovers that Anne was Laura's half-sister.).
  • I Gave My Word: Laura promised her dying father that she'd marry Sir Percival, and she sticks to that promise even after she realises she could never love him.
  • Hypochondriac: Frederick Fairlie.
  • It's All About Me: Frederick Fairlie.
  • Karmic Death: Yes. You can probably guess who.
  • Love Is a Weakness: Fosco confesses that his esteem for Marian proved to be his only weakness in the affair.
  • Malaproper: Professor Pesca.
  • Male Gaze: Shamelessly done by Walter on Marian.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Sir Percival's treatment of his servants is the first warning sign we get of his Jerkass nature.
  • The Ophelia: Anne and Laura. Though their mental health problems are described as rather troubling but Mr Hartright takes great pleasure in taking care of Laura and making her better. Anne's weak and confused mind do not make her attractive at all.
  • Person with the Clothing
  • Polyamory: Hinted at with Walter, Laura, and Marian at the end.
  • The Reveal: The truth of Professor Pesca is one of many. This is, after all, a serialized sensation novel.
  • Sexless Marriage: Fortunately for Laura, implied for her and her husband; Sir Percival assures Fosco that there's no chance of Laura producing heirs.
  • Sexy Walk: Marian has one, according to Fosco.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Marian is good at it. When she plays with Count Fosco, she discovers very quickly that her let her win on purpose. She immediately tells him what the hell, he apologizes and utterly destroys her in their next game.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Marian. Intelligent, capable, strong and physically fit. Laura is her Proper Lady Foil and frankly, she pales in the comparison.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Marian the Tomboy and Laura the Girly Girl.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Two half-sisters (not Marian and Laura).
  • Victorian Britain
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Used by Fanny to smuggle letters for Marian. Fosco's wife gets them anyway.
  • Villainous Glutton: Fosco.
  • Woman in White: Arguably, the Trope Namer.
  • Worthy Opponent: Marian Halcombe to Count Fosco. Cue rambling about how intelligent/courageous/perfect she is and how they could rule together under different circumstances (if he wasn't married, and he wasn't trying to get her sister's fortune, for starters). But one has to wonder what part of this comes from pure, candid, objective esteem, independent of the fact that the old goat is in love with her. At least in two occasions when she could have been owned by him, he just lets her off.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Collins got annoyed by reviewers who nitpicked about mistakes in dating, which he later fixed in a future edition. He consoled himself by thinking that Shakespeare was guilty of the same thing.
  • You Got Spunk: Marian, in Fosco's opinion. And he likes spunk.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Marian's initial reaction upon discovering that Fosco likes her and admires her a lot.

The musical adaptation provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Marian. Good GOD, Marian. In the book, she's described as being ugly and masculine. In the musical, she was played by Ruthie Henshall, a very attractive actress. The tradeoff, however, is that she's still considered undesirable, except this time it's due to being a Christmas Cake in her late thirties rather than young and ugly.
  • Villain Song: "You Can Get Away With Anything"
  • Villain Love Song: "The Seduction"


The White Company 19 th Century LiteratureThe Woman with the Velvet Necklace
The Haunting of Hill HouseParanormal InvestigationNew Amsterdam Books

alternative title(s): The Woman In White
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