Blog Post: Wilkie Collins’ Poor Miss Finch
My immediate reaction to Lucilla Finch’s blindness in Collins’ Poor Miss Finch is strongly influenced by Collins’ portrayal of Lucilla as a character with “no other personal defect in her” (Collins 14). Though I am sure that this characterization of Lucilla is intended to make the reader cheer for her happiness as she is supposedly irresistibly charming, it instead has the effect of alienating Lucilla from me. Her apparent perfection makes her un-relatable to the average reader which unfortunately results in Lucilla’s character greatly annoying me. However, I promise to try not to let that annoyance taint my observations regarding Lucilla’s interactions with her world too much.
Lucilla, who has apparently led a fairly happy—though admittedly dull—life up to this point, incites sympathy in those around her due to her blindness, which she herself claims is her “blessing” (Collins 417). However, instead of this causing me to be more frustrated with Lucilla, I am instead annoyed by those who are sympathetic of her due to her blindness. See, I told you I would try to be fair to Lucilla! If Lucilla does not find herself to be physically lacking in any way due to her blindness, it makes no sense for others to feel anything close to pity for her. Still, Lucilla is treated as though she has led a life of suffering in that her wishes are granted without a second thought. For example, though Lucilla’s “blind horror of anything that is dark” is fairly nonsensical, upon their first meeting Madame Pratolungo instantly consents to Lucilla’s desire for Madame Pratolungo to “wear pretty bright colours, to please me!” (Collins 14). Upon reading this I have to admit I was slightly repulsed at the ridiculous indulgences Lucilla is granted due to her blindness when she so obviously excels at navigating her world regardless of her lack of sight. It has clearly caused Lucilla to expect that pleasing her is reason enough for anyone to do anything for her, which in my opinion cheats Lucilla out of important life lessons and opportunities for self-improvement.
Lucilla’s blindness and her aversion to dark colours—which is so important that it drives the major plot line—is much more interesting when we look at on a larger scale. If we observe Lucilla’s request of Madame Pratolungo to avoid dark coloured clothing through the lens of Mary Ann O’Farrell’s suggestion that “the Victorian ‘thing culture’ . . . [as] a more extravagant form of object relations than ours . . . reflect[s] th[e] Victorian attachment to objects” we can now view Lucilla’s inexplicable aversion to dark colours as metaphoric for the extravagant Victorian object relation and attachment (513). Lucilla cannot personally confirm her assumptions regarding the colour of the objects around her—and has even been proven wrong when she “picked out the dark dress instead of the light one” (Collins 16)—and yet she still claims an aversion to dark colours. Her aversion to dark colours can absolutely be described as an extravagant relation to the objects around her, and that extravagance is only amplified when her blindness is factored in.
Collins, Wilkie. Poor Miss Finch. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
O’Farrell, Mary Ann. “Blindness Envy: Victorians in the Parlors of the Blind.” PMLA 127.3 (May 2012): 512–525.