Study Guide

The Woman in White Nature

By Wilkie Collins

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We don't get many scenes of nature (or at least of characters enjoying nature) in this book. Everyone is too busy running around being in peril to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. But, Walter sometimes pauses to look at nature and to wax poetic on it, recognizing the beauty and the danger of nature simultaneously.

The moon was full and broad in the dark blue starless sky; and the broken ground of the heath looked wild enough in the mysterious light, to be hundreds of miles away from the great city that lay beneath it. The idea of descending any sooner than I could help into the heat and gloom of London repelled me. (

For Walter, nature is often a calming—if "wild"—reprieve from the city. The nature that he basks in, though, isn't portrayed as sunny skies and babbling brooks. At its best, the natural world is mysterious. At its worst, nature is both disgusting and spooky. The nature scenes we get at Blackwater Park are downright menacing:

On the farther bank from me, the trees rose thickly again, and shut out the view, and cast their black shadows on the sluggish, shallow water. (

The natural world around Blackwater Park is deadened and suffocating, filled with shadows and decay. The water is still, and probably filled with leeches. This nature is not the stuff of picnic fantasies and vacation houses.

But this perception of the natural world reflects the view of mankind that crops up in The Woman in White. At best, people are mysterious (Laura) or a tad wild (Marian). At worst, people are disgustingly sluggish (Fosco) and cast long and terrifying shadows (Sir Percival).

The Woman in White Nature Study Group

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