Study Guide

The Woman in White Lies and Deceit

By Wilkie Collins

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Lies and Deceit

If you think all Victorian novels take an after-school special attitude toward lying, think again. Granted, the moral police pop up fairly often in The Woman in White, but the book actually makes lying seem kind of… cool.

The slickest liar of all is totally Count Fosco. He's a puppetmaster: smarmy and charming (smarming?). When the novel was published, reviewers took note of Fosco and often commented on what an awesome villain he was. And, in general, whether lying is seen as good or bad largely depends on who is doing it and why: just check out Walter's lies to Laura when she's regaining her mental health after the stint in the asylum.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. How does the act of lying play a key role in the book's style and overall plot?
  2. Does the novel cast Walter and Marian's decision to lie to Laura about their plans in a positive or negative light?
  3. How is the fact that Fosco is a spy significant?
  4. How does lying become a form of storytelling in the novel, especially with characters like Fosco?

Chew on This

Anne puts an interesting twist on the theme of lying; through her we see the consequences of unintentional lies (such as her claim to know about The Secret) and the very murky line between truth and lies.

Count Fosco is really the only good liar in the book, and he's so good at it that he practically turns lying into a virtue… or at least a great accessory.

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