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Double Communication in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White: Narrative and Social Order  
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This essay takes a rhetorical narratological approach to The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins by focusing on the double communication. Two stories of ideological significance are told through one narrative. The implied author utilizes the narrator’s narrative to communicate a message that serves to undermine the conventional social order that Walter’s narrative represents. The implied author uses the characters mimetic components to transmit his communication, which resides in the characters’ thematic function. The mimetic composition of characters guides readers to respond and react in a manner that contradicts the roles they are assigned in the narrator’s narrative. This allows for the characters to function as a critique against the conventional social order by promoting the image of a “new woman” in relation to the conventional woman. A mimetic function makes a character more approachable for readers; this affects how readers respond emotionally and how they judge characters and their actions. These reactions in readers also extend to the characters’ thematic function. Thus, readers can be guided to respond and value certain functions above others through the use of mimetic components. Readers can value a character positively and then also value the thematic function positively, or they can value a character more negatively, resulting in an image of the thematic function as less interesting; all dependent on the composition. This thesis also ties the novel to the time of publication by focusing on the “authorial audience” and the issues they would have been prone to react to. Therefore, the importance of cultural and literal horizons of expectations when analyzing The Woman in White is emphasized. In The Woman in White, the implied author allows for readers to uncover issues with the conventional social order and therefore challenge prevalent ideas regarding women, all the while without overtly stating this intention.                                                     

Keywords: The Woman in White; Rhetorical narrative theory; authorial audience; horizons of expectations; mimetic and thematic components; David Miall; James Phelan. 

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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-113465OAI: diva2:785258
Available from: 2015-03-05 Created: 2015-02-02 Last updated: 2015-03-05Bibliographically approved

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