POOR MISS FINCH by Wilkie Collins

POOR MISS FINCH by Wilkie Collins

13 May 2014

POOR MISS FINCH (chaps. 26-31)--installments 10-12

Dear Serial Readers,

The plot thickens--can we *see* where things are headed?  Interesting in *light* of Rachel's observations about the unknown causes of Lucilla's (whose name means 'light') blindness that in these chapters we learn that cataracts developed during her first year of life.  Can these cataracts be removed and sight restored?  We have two different professional opinions: yes (Grosse) and no (Sebright--another interesting name that embeds visuality).  And if Lucilla's vision is restored,
will she prefer the "light" twin over the "dark" one?

I had thought that if Lucilla were to be able to see the faces of these brothers, she might still shrink from Nugent's "blue face" (as she's been led to believe) and prefer Oscar's complexion because "light" and "dark" could only have been for her abstract (or social) concepts, but without a physical dimension.  However, now that it's disclosed that Lucilla can distinguish between (to quote Herr Grosse) "nice-light" and "horrid-dark," perhaps (if her sight is restored) she will be able to understand that Oscar has the blue face and that she's been deceived. In any case, all this attention complicates the matter of prejudice to dark and light faces as much more than a physical quality. 

Lucilla certainly seems to enjoy more freedom with her sexual desires than sighted women of her day and class, given her boldness showering Oscar with kisses and directing him to hug and kiss her. Even our French narrator is horrified.  To me, these scenes suggest the advantages of Lucilla's freedom from the gaze--given that she doesn't know what it means to be looked at and assessed accordingly.

For next week (and Rachel's lead post): chapters 32-35). I can't wait to see what happens if Lucilla sees!

Serially looking forward,

1 comment:

Barbara said...

In these chapters I was struck by the ways in which Oscar’s nervous condition seems to be “spreading” to Lucilla and Madame P both of whom are repeatedly described as “nervous” or speaking “nervously.” In Lucilla’s case, the nerves seem both understandable (she may regain her sight, she may not) and, at least at first, also related to her antipathy to dark colours/people and her own uneasiness about what she “senses” when she is blind (and, later, whether these senses are accurate). It is interesting here that she attributes her antipathy to dark colours/people to her blindness and not to her real self, so to speak (“blame my blindness . . . don’t blame me” [chap 24]). This formulation also allows her to see her antipathy as her problem and not the problem of dark people which is a promising development re. the racial undertones. Her “real self,” in other words, can see that this aversion is an irrational prejudice. In Madame P’s case, it is interesting, that her nerves lead to a sort of narrative dissolution that is itself introduced by its opposite, the legal case. And so we have one chapter in which Lucilla’s situation is presented as a parliamentary case and the next chapter in which Madame P cannot recall events in their proper order, is confused, and wants to skip ahead many hours. This narrative disarray is a product of her nerves which seem to have recovered, at least in part, by the last chapter in this section. As always, I like the way that Collins manifests nervous disorders at the level of form.
All the best, Barbara