The Woman in White

'Till Death Do Us Part College

In Tamar Heller’s study, Dead Secrets: Wilkie Collins and the Female Gothic, she suggests that Ellen Moers’ use of the term “Female Gothic” refers to the nightmarish marriages that are presented in novels of this genre, in which women were often imprisoned, trapped, and oppressed within a society that emphasized domesticity. Through the descriptions of forbidding castles and evil men, the heroines in these gothic novels are portrayed as being in a constant state of danger and peril as they lose all control over their own lives. In both Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, the leading female characters become isolated and trapped as the men around them dictate their futures, and the promise of marriage becomes the most terrifying aspect to both novels. Marriage in both of these pieces of gothic and sensation fiction is portrayed as being oppressive, dangerous, and brought about for all the wrong reasons. Each bride and groom has a different experience with marriage that is exemplified through the use of common gothic conventions, but Emily St. Aubert and Laura Fairlie both recognize the feeling and importance of love, yet are pushed into marital agreements that are based on falsehoods.


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