Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Wilkie Collins is a major sensation author of the Victorian period, known for introducing the form of the novel to detective fiction. His novels contain biting social critique and dynamic, multidimensional characters, the majority of whom are women, making his novels rich material for an examination of gender norms, power dynamics, and difference in Victorian society. His major works include The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), the two novels on which I focus. Previous critics have focused on the anxious male narrators in these novels and their attempts to establish positions of authority by taking control of the narrative. A necessary result of this seizure is the oppressive silencing of the women of the text, as their voices are ignored or rewritten. While it is certainly true that women often have trouble being heard within a patriarchal society that dismisses their experiences and perspectives, the uses of silence within Wilkie Collins’s novels are more complex. In these novels, women do not necessarily have silence imposed upon them; they often choose silence as a means of exerting control over their lives. In contrast to elusive narrative control, elective silence enables women to establish their own distinct power within, but separate from, the patriarchal system. They can then use this power to protect those who are excluded from the patriarchy and provide justice that the legal system cannot.