The world is hard on women : women and marriage in the novels of Wilkie Collins
'The World is Hard on Women'; Women and Marriage in the Novels of Wilkie Collins" examines the ways in which Collins sympathetically explores the situations of women in relation to marriage and to society in general. Each of the first five chapters deals with a particular topic relating to women and marriage, showing how these topical themes recur and develop through Collins's novels. Chapter One, "Marriage, Money and Power", looks at mercenary marriages in which husbands exploit there wives, or in which wives attempt to exploit their husbands. Chapter Two, "The Magdalen Theme", examines Collins's treatment of the question of "fallen" women, and his different attempts to plead for the reintegration of such women back into the fabric of conventional society. Chapter Three, "Marriage Breakdowns", discusses the situation of women who find themselves deserted by their husbands, and facing a hostile and Judgemental reaction from their social peers. Chapter Four, "Unmarried Women", shows Collins's sympathetic portrayal of diminution of power and importance of those women who either choose not to, or who are unable to marry. Chapter Five, "Widows" discusses the role played by widows as trustees of male power, and guardians to the younger generation. Chapter Six, "The Fallen Leaves", draws on the material discussed in the first five chapters in order to make a detailed examination of Collins's extensive treatment of topics related to women and marriage in The Fallen Leaves. The thesis concludes that Collins was very aware of, and radically sympathetic to the problems faced by women in Victorian society, and that this sympathy and knowledge form an important feature of his writing.