Authors Name: 
Meadhbh McGrath
University: 
Trinity College, University of Dublin
Category: 
Literature
Highly commended

“In short, she is an angel; and I am—”: Freakishness, Monstrosity and Gender Subversion in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White

This essay uses the Victorian freak show as a basis from which to argue that Wilkie Collins uses the unusual characters of Marian Halcombe and Count Fosco to undermine the “traditional” hero and heroine of Victorian Literature in "The Woman in White" (1859). Where Laura Fairlie and Walter Hartright are irritating and uninteresting figures, Marian (drawn from the Bearded Lady) and Fosco (taken from over-sized circus attractions) are fascinating figures, erotically attracted to each other, and attracting the reader’s attention too. The essay draws on freak theory to situate the characters carefully as ideological weapons used by Collins to launch an attack on the dominant gender ideology of the period.