Saturday, August 3, 2013

Character Analysis: Marian Halcombe

MARIAN HALCOMBE: The early feminist

Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White has portrayed the distinct roles of the genders in Victorian society. The male characters are established as the dominant people, for they are the major contributors in the income of the household and are primarily the makers of significant decisions. The female characters, on the other hand, are portrayed as the submissive people, for they are emotionally unstable and generally weak. This portrayal of the sexes has been very evident in the relationships of Sir Percival Glyde and Laura Fairlie, and Count Fosco and Madame Fosco. But what makes things more intriguing is the fact that another character, with the name of Marian Halcombe, blatantly contradicts this portrayal.

What truly make Marian Halcombe an interesting character are her beliefs that seem to be the fundamentals of feminism. Take note that this is the Victorian times, where gender roles have significant distinctions, and cater more to the males, so having such beliefs are intriguing in itself. She claims that women should not submit themselves to men as legal properties, as if they’re chained-up dogs to his kennel. This has led her to be infuriated by Laura’s decision to submit to a marriage with Sir Percival Glyde just because it is her father’s death wish. And this has drawn her to a world of intrigue, as she tries to save Laura from the plans, which turns out to be criminal in nature, of Sir Percival Glyde and Count Fosco.

Marian Halcombe is also described as someone who isn’t very attractive physically, for her facial features are somewhat masculine. This could be uninspiring for some readers. But for me this is just fine because her physical descriptions fit her personality, which shows significant parallelism to the personalities of males. This is evident on her instances of making decisions that are rather rash, like risking her health for an excellent opportunity to finally clear the mystery that shrouds the book; and also on her being a major influence in Limmeridge House, while the fact that she is a female is taken into consideration. This is the reason why Marian Halcombe is such a powerful character. She is a dominant female, which is somewhat inspiring considering the timeline of the book.

            Even though Walter Hartright is the primary perspective of the book, and takes the major role of the detective, Marian Halcombe is the one who has had major discoveries. It is her diary entries that provide the readers with significant amount of information regarding the case, and Walter Hartright seems to be just there to complete the puzzle finally. In truth, as a character, Walter Hartright, together with Laura Fairlie, is pretty bland. He is outshined by Marian Halcombe, whose feminine sensibility has driven the story significantly and has become the catalyst to the discovery of major plot points. What makes her stand out more is how she contradicts the personality of Laura Fairlie, who is a stereotype of a submissive woman.

I will not expand on the relationship of these two women, for it is not very relevant to the post. The only relevant part is how this relationship has influenced the conclusion of the story. Marian Halcombe chooses to stay with Laura Fairlie and Walter Hartright, and act as a godparent to their child. She doesn’t want to be married, and her attachment to Laura Fairlie and the others is enough for her emotional needs. What makes this significant is Marian Halcombe’s consistency on her extreme feminist ideologies. She continues to refuse submitting to a male, for she believes that marriage in her time is degradation from a woman to a mere male property. This could be either good or bad, depending on the perspective of the readers. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that, Marian Halcombe, as a mere character of a book, has been one of the earliest feminist, for she has a set of ideas that soon became the benchmarks of feminism.

Related posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment