The Woman in White | Study Guide

Wilkie Collins

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The Woman in White | Part 3, Chapter 4 : The Third Epoch (The Story Concluded by Walter Hartright) | Summary

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Summary

Having read Fosco's confession, Hartright finds the cab driver who took Fosco and Laura to Waterloo Station on July 26—the day after Laura's supposed death. The driver remembers both the journey and the name of his passenger. He is prepared to swear to both.

Hartright takes Fosco's confession and the cab driver to Mr. Kyrle, the lawyer. Kyrle is now wholly convinced of the truth of Hartright's story. Together, Hartright, Halcombe, Laura, and Kyrle confront Laura's indolent uncle, Frederick Fairlie. Mr. Fairlie, to avoid any fuss and upset, accepts Laura as his niece, as do his servants and the villagers. Hartright has Laura's name removed from the tombstone and replaced by Anne Catherick's.

Hartright finds more lucrative work and is offered a commission in Paris. He invites his friend Professor Pesca to join him there. While in Paris, Pesca tells Hartright that he has had a visit from a member of the Italian secret society and begs to leave immediately. Before they depart, however, Hartright desires to visit Notre Dame and on his way to the cathedral passes by the Paris morgue. There on public display, he discovers Count Fosco, dead. He observes, "The wound that had killed him had been struck with a knife or dagger exactly over his heart." Two cuts on his upper arm obliterate his Brotherhood tattoo.

With their last enemy gone, Hartright, Halcombe, and Laura have won the day. Laura has a baby—a son they name Walter. When little Walter is six months old, Frederick Fairlie dies, and Limmeridge House is left to Laura. Hartright, Laura, and their son move in along with Halcombe. Hartright asks Halcombe whether she wants to pursue her own interests or find a husband. Halcombe tells him, "My heart and my happiness, Walter, are with Laura and you."

Analysis

The story ends with every villain punished and every hero rewarded. Even poor Anne Catherick has what she always wanted: eternity next to her beloved Mrs. Fairlie in the graveyard at Limmeridge.

Halcombe, whose strength and independence are a major feature of the novel, chooses to forgo finding a husband and setting up an independent household. Instead, she tells her sister and brother-in-law she is looking forward to being part of their family and teaching their children. She vows, "The first lesson they say to their father and mother shall be—we can't spare our aunt!" Halcombe's decision pulls the final pieces of the story together in a satisfactory manner. It also implies that, for Halcombe, the love of a man is not important. In other words, it strengthens the possibility that Halcombe may be intended as a lesbian character.

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