Wilkie Collins Analysis

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The subject of ‘disability’ has always become an awkward and unsure one. The trouble, perhaps, is caused primarily by a sense of discomfort regarding the ‘proper’ emotional response towards the ‘disabled’ people. Generally, it is a confused feeling of compassion, anxiety, apprehension, pity, annoyance, detachment, self-complacency and even guilt. Moreover, the borderline between ‘ability’ and disability remains vulnerable and indefinite, as nobody can assure that the ‘able-bodied’ people will remain so till their death. It creates another uncomfortable realisation about the impermanence of body. In fact, the attitude to disability is a cultural construct. The emotional reaction to it is closely associated with the accepted standard of physical…show more content…
Collins is widely celebrated among the pioneers of modern English detective fiction for his The Moonstone (1869). However, in the beginning, his merit as a literary artist was not much recognised by the critics and reviewers as his success was primarily acquired in popular genre like the sensation novel. In the later part of the twentieth century, Collins has obtained greater critical attention for the emergence of a new interest in popular literary forms. The current trends of Collins criticism do not consider the author as a mere ‘sensationalist’, rather thoroughly explore the complexity of his narrative pattern and highlights the radical and subversive elements of his literary creation. This paper proposes to explore the representation of ‘disability’ (both physical and mental) in Collins’s major novels written in the 1860s. It also attempts to find out the ways in which Collins questions the process of constructing the Victorian idea of…show more content…
Referring to Catherine Peter’s biography of Wilkie Collins, Kate Flint suggests that Collins’s interest in “obstacles to full physical functioning”, may be seen partly as a result of his own eyesight-related problems (he suffered from chronic ‘eye gout’ and consulted the ophthalmic surgeon George Critchett about this) (Flint 153). Collins’s reliance on melodramatic tradition has also been suggested as a reason for his interest in physical disability. On the other hand, Flint refers to a broader nineteenth-century concern “with the operation of the senses” in this respect (Flint 154). In her observation, this concern was demonstrated in various fields such as literature and science of the period. The popular literary texts often showed a “theological bias”, suggesting that some spiritual consolation could follow physical deprivation. Contemporary scientific works that studied and made various developments in the fields of physiology and psychology paid attention to “variation and aberration within human perceptual systems”. There was an attempt to make generalisations about the ‘normal’ functioning of the senses (154). This attitude was duly mirrored in the representation of ‘disabled’ characters in the contemporary English novels. For example, we may mention the diminutive persons of The Marchioness in Dickens’s The Old
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