Study Guide

The Woman in White Justice and Judgment

By Wilkie Collins

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Justice and Judgment

The Woman in White is definitely concerned with the difference between right and wrong. (Collins actually studied law for a time.) But while people run around pursuing justice in this book, they rarely get it. Sure, the villains die… but they die by accident. They don't face a trial, or pay dues, or get thrown in the clink. 

As far as this novel is concerned, judgment comes in the form of karmic retribution, not at the hands of a judge and jury. The universe, rather than the law or other people, will make sure that your past actions come back to bite you.

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. Walter never actually deals out punishment in the book—both Fosco and Sir Percival get their comeuppance from other sources. What is the significance of this?
  2. Does Walter seem to feel Sir Percival is getting what he deserves when he dies in the fire? How do the tone and style of this scene reveal Walter's state of mind?
  3. How does Pesca's plot tie into the theme of justice?
  4. What details do we get about Marian's increased concern with revenge against Fosco as the novel progresses? How does the novel portray this concern?

Chew on This

The novel argues that justice and judgment are best left to a higher power, like fate.

It's no accident that the crime against Laura goes unpunished (at least directly). That detail helps put the story in perspective and contrasts Walter's overriding concern with justice with the wider world of justice and injustice.

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