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The Woman in White
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2012/13 Group Reads - Archives > The Woman in White - Part 3

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message 1: by Sarah (last edited Dec 23, 2012 01:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah | 269 comments Thoughts on the conversation between Sir Percival and Count Fosco regarding criminals?

What do you think of this line by Marian: “Women can resist a man’s love, a man’s fame, a man’s personal appearance, a man’s money, but they cannot resist a man’s tongue when he knows how to talk to them”? (page 259 at the beginning of chapter 5 of Marian's narrative in my edition)

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How do you account for Marian’s now inherent distrust of Count Fosco?

Why do you think Sir Percival is exhibiting such brutal behavior, particularly toward Laura? Why does Count Fosco defend her and Marian?

How do you see Count Fosco’s character evolving? Marian’s? Laura’s? Sir Percival’s? Impressions on Margaret Porcher?

(view spoiler)

(view spoiler)


Sarah | 269 comments My thoughts on Part 3. :-)




The evolution of the characters reflects the increasingly dark tone, as Laura becomes frighteningly calm and cool and Marian develops a suspicious attitude toward the housemembers at Blackwater Park. Sir Percival drops his pretense of caring and reveals his true dark nature, as evidenced when he nonchalantly discusses a speculative murder. This topic, in turn, provides a view of Count Fosco as he presents his philosophy that the wise criminal is the one who doesn’t get caught, a startling sentiment from a man who offers himself as a genial companion but who apparently hides some sinister aspect of his character. Perhaps Marian sums it up best when she writes, “Women can resist a man’s love, a man’s fame, a man’s personal appearance, a man’s money, but they cannot resist a man’s tongue when he knows how to talk to them.”

Sir Percival’s character continues to become more menacing, which in itself is not surprising; what is noteworthy, however, are his violent outbursts of emotion and rage, which only the Count seems able to temper. I am curious about the exact nature of their relationship, for although they both seem to be conniving, it doesn’t appear that the Count is really aware of Sir Percival’s personal affairs (particularly Anne Catherick). (view spoiler)

Added to this is the mysterious figure whom Marian and Laura see while taking an evening walk to the lake. Like so many of the characters, this one is at first cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear whether this stranger is a male or a female and, more importantly, why he or she was following the two women. Anne Catherick’s continued hold over the story is also obvious; interestingly, she is able to influence how the other characters feel and act. (view spoiler)

The relationship between Count Fosco and Sir Percival continues to interest and intrigue me. The Count interferes on behalf of Lady Glyde and Marian, yet he turns up at very inopportune moments when the women are trying to formulate plans of action. The same can be said of Madame Fosco. (view spoiler)

The key to the mystery seems to lie with Anne Catherick, and the eerie brilliance of the nineteenth-century mystery novel shines forth. Without any overt horror, Collins is able to evoke a sense of dread and terror.


message 3: by Deborah, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4487 comments Mod
I think Percavel's motives are purely financial. He is clearly a desperate man who is willing to do desperate things. Here he is in financial straights, yet indicates to Count Fosco that he has spent quite a bit of money trying to find Anne. We still don't know what the secret is, but it is something important enough to push Percavel into spending additional funds that he does not have.

I'm intrigued by how the Count is finding out what Marian is doing; along with the strange relationship he has with his wife. I think he sides with the woman because he believes if they feel comfortable, he and Perceval will be able to con them into giving the money to the men.

Re the hypothetical murder brought up during the conversation between the Count and Percavel, I think Percavel is somewhat taken aback by the idea. I wouldn't say he is complacent about the thought. Although he does appear willing to place all of his messes in Fosco's hands.

Fosco is full of audacity! Not only is he willing to read Marian's diary, but blatantly leaves an entry for her to find when (if) she recovers.

At the beginning of this segment, I really dislike Laura's quiet acceptance of things. I'm glad to see that she finally has the sense to be frightened. Of course, I'm dying to find out the secret.

On a societal note, Collins has referenced domestic abuse and the powerlessness that women could find in situations (marital or otherwise). He also has Fosco group women in the same category as animals or children which clearly indicates the lack of respect women faced.

Can't wait to read on.


Lynnm | 3027 comments Sarah wrote: "What do you think of this line by Marian: “Women can resist a man’s love, a man’s fame, a man’s personal appearance, a man’s money, but they cannot resist a man’s tongue when he knows how to talk to them”? "

After being ahead of the schedule, I now find myself behind. But I'm only a couple of chapters behind so I should be able to fully post in a couple of days.

But this line also caught my attention. I'm not sure if this is true. It would depend on the woman. I've never trusted what men have said to me... ;)

I'm not sure what to make of Marian in this section. She was so strong in Hartright's narrative, but in her own narrative, she cries at certain points and is afraid to assert herself.

Laura seems more strong than Marian at times.

Which of course brings into question - as discussed before - how reliable the narrators are. Maybe to Hartright, Marian seemed strong because she was stronger than most women that he knew, or as compared to Laura. But now that Marian is narrating her own story, we see the real Marian?


message 5: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 483 comments Sarah, a good observation on the philosophy of Count Fosco that a wise criminal doesn't get caught. Much is made about Sir Percival's secret, and aren't we all hanging out to discover the truth there, but I believe the Count has something to hide as well. He appears to be in some kind of trouble, whether financial, political or criminal we don't yet know, but there have been a couple of hints. Firstly, he appears to be in permanent self exile from the country of his birth, and there is also the mention of him nervously checking on the possibility of there being any Italians in the vicinity...clearly someone is after him...and if they follow him to another country this could suggest something serious...possible criminal activity. This could be part of the explanation for the relationship between Fosco and Percival..perhaps Percival is helping to conceal him from authorities? The link between them is associated with their mutual desire to get their hands on Laura's money. Fosco's wife has been prevented from getting some of the money by the existence of Laura, and Laura is refusing to sign away her inheritance to her desperately greedy husband.
Both are duplicitous in their ability to act like gentlemen in order to gain someone's trust, although Sir Percival clearly dropped all pretence once married, unlike Fosco, who continues to lay on the charm in a most unnerving fashion.


Sarah | 269 comments Deborah wrote: "I think Percavel's motives are purely financial. He is clearly a desperate man who is willing to do desperate things. Here he is in financial straights, yet indicates to Count Fosco that he has spe..."

Based on your observations, do you think that Count Fosco poses a greater threat than Sir Percival? Why? Is his motive in pandering to the women simply to aid Sir Percival?


Sarah | 269 comments Lynnm wrote: "Sarah wrote: "What do you think of this line by Marian: “Women can resist a man’s love, a man’s fame, a man’s personal appearance, a man’s money, but they cannot resist a man’s tongue when he knows..."

I wonder if Marian has changed because her situation has changed. She was, in a sense, in charge or at least in control when the sisters lived with Mr. Fairlie, but now she is in Sir Percival’s house and must abide by his rules and play second fiddle. Perhaps her sense of impending danger plays into her changed attitude as well. Also, as you mention, Mr. Hartright probably wasn’t familiar with many independent, headstrong women, and also Marian is chronicling the events through her journal, where she can (presumably, but not in actuality) write down her thoughts in private.


Casceil | 220 comments Jan wrote: "The link between them is associated with their mutual desire to get their hands on Laura's money. Fosco's wife has been prevented from getting some of the money by the existence of Laura, and Laura is refusing to sign away her inheritance to her desperately greedy husband."

Interesting point. I had not made the connection between Fosco's wife and the inheritance. Sir Percival and Count Fosco obviously go back aways. I wonder when they met in relationship to the wife being effectively disinherited. Maybe Fosco engineered this from way back then, and brought in Sir Percival to seek Laura's hand in marriage as a way to get to some of that money.


Sarah | 269 comments Casceil wrote: "Jan wrote: "The link between them is associated with their mutual desire to get their hands on Laura's money. Fosco's wife has been prevented from getting some of the money by the existence of Lau..."

I didn’t consider the relationship between Percival and Fosco from the angle of Laura standing in the way of Lady Fosco’s inheritance, but that would certainly make sense. It could also account for Lady Fosco’s servility toward her husband and her general sneakiness, if getting her hands on the inheritance is the end result.


message 10: by Deborah, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4487 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "Deborah wrote: "I think Percavel's motives are purely financial. He is clearly a desperate man who is willing to do desperate things. Here he is in financial straights, yet indicates to Count Fosco..."

I think Fosco and Percavel are of equal threat. They seem to be working as a team. After all, Fosco does get something if Laura dies. Yet Fosco does seem to be more comfortable with the idea of murder (at least at this point of the story). I think they are of equal threat - just in different ways.


Sarah | 269 comments Deborah wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Deborah wrote: "I think Percavel's motives are purely financial. He is clearly a desperate man who is willing to do desperate things. Here he is in financial straights, yet indicates ..."

I agree. I find that, as many have commented, Fosco is more sinister in that he is very charismatic and deceptive, whereas Percival is more clear-cut in his villainry.


message 12: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 483 comments And of course there is still the mystery of Anne Catherick...if Sir Percival has had one woman locked up....perhaps that's more his style than murder......could he perhaps lock up another......giving him power of attorney then over her finances.....luckily for that woman so far in having a very alert sister......but will that be enough....could he get them both committed? And what is his secret? Was he married to Anne Catherick...is he still....therefore a bigamist? I'm finding this a most intriguing read. It's the first time I've read Wilkie Collins and had no expectations but will now have to look at the background information about the author...certainly a great read so far.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments To tell the truth, it is one of most evenly-paced mystery novels I have ever read. Collins masterfully reveals some nuggets of information that will stimulate our imagination. Part of it could be attributed to the fact that there are several unreliable narrators, and each has something to reveal.

Marian is the most fleshed-out character in the novel, and we see both her strong and vulnerable sides. She is also the most likable, in my humble opinion. On the other hand, Laura finally shows some stoicism and an ability to resist despite the coercion and duress, and it is even more commendable because the events took place in the 19th century, so finally kudos, Laura.

Count Fosco is also a multi-faceted character. Many of you have already mentioned that he is portrayed as a sinister character. I believe that we perceive him as a sinister and shadowy character because he creates the feeling that he is ubiquitous and omnipresent. You expect him to peacefully continue his sojourn in the living room or in the library with his pets while he will secretly follow you and use every your step against you. In her diary Marian mentions several times that she thinks he is in the library or in the drawing room, occupied with seemingly harmless chores or pastimes, when if fact, as we learn further, he is always alert. He is also repulsively immoral when it comes to privacy ( stalking, overhearing,eavesdropping, reading private correspondence), but he is still socially acceptable due to his manners and treacherous politeness.

By the way, shall we assume that the marriage has never been consummated from the dialogue between Count Fosco and Sir Percival?


Sarah | 269 comments Zulfiya wrote: "To tell the truth, it is one of most evenly-paced mystery novels I have ever read. Collins masterfully reveals some nuggets of information that will stimulate our imagination. Part of it could be a..."

Well-put, Zulfiya. Count Fosco’s abhorrence is due in large part to his ability to seemingly see and hear all while still pretending to be obsequious and caring. Also, I too did not think that Percival and Laura’s marriage was consummated.


Lynnm | 3027 comments I finally finished the chapters, and I have to change my comments about Marian. She's tough, courageous, and strong, going out on the roof like that.

But very worried about her. Sick. And in the hands of that evil Fosco.

Who is very evil as everyone is saying. I had originally thought that Sir Percival had murderous intentions because of the way he had the legal documents made out giving him all of Laura's principal if she died.

But it is Fosco.


Lynnm | 3027 comments Jan wrote: "Was he married to Anne Catherick...is he still....therefore a bigamist?"

I was wondering that too, but I'm not sure how that would be possible. I would think the there would be legal records if they had married, and there would be no death certificate for Anne.

I'm am very curious to see how that part of the story plays out.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Lynnm wrote: "I finally finished the chapters, and I have to change my comments about Marian. She's tough, courageous, and strong, going out on the roof like that.

But very worried about her. Sick. And in the ..."


Sir Percival has more scruples than Count Fosco. It is Fosco who brings up the topic of Lady Glyde's possible death ...


Sarah | 269 comments Count Fosco uses the other characters as pawns, from his wife to Sir Percival. He is a great archetype for villainry, that’s certain!


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