English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Emily W Heady

Primary Subject Area

Literature, English; Literature, General; Language, Rhetoric and Composition


Narrative Theory, Reader-response Theory, The Woman in White, Voice, Wilkie Collins


English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Rhetoric and Composition


This thesis examines the intricacies of voice using narrative theory and reader-response theory with Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. Since Collins first wrote this epistolary novel serially, he wrote aware of his audience as he printed segments with different narrators. This novel allowed Collins the opportunity to reveal an internal set of narrators' responses to other characters' voices--responses that sometimes conflict with and modify one another. At the same time, Collins' contemporary audience's responses to the novel reveal the role of characters' voices in shaping reactions of members of the novel's reading public. Two opposing figures--Laura Fairlie and Count Fosco--aid this examination of understanding voice through multiple lenses as both of these characters are relatively silent in the context of the narrative while still remaining essential to the plot. Their distance from the narrative makes the interpretations the readership and narrators of the novel have of these two characters imperative to consider.