Student Response to Poor Miss Finch

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.

Works Cited

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.

3 thoughts on “Student Response to Poor Miss Finch

  1. The only blemish on the perfection of Lucilla is that she does seem to want to be spoiled. The aversion to dark colours and asking Madame Pratolungo to “wear pretty bright colours” certainly does seem a little needless. I was however confused as to why a beautiful young girl with no seeming imperfections (aside from the blindness) ends up being banished to a separate part of the house. I must assume that it is another indulgence (that she apparently pays for out of her inheritance to her father) so that she may escape the many stepsiblings that abound from the perpetually moist and flustered stepmother. Instead of dark colours it would seem more likely that Lucilla should gave an aversion to noise!

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  2. OP,

    I can understand why you detest Lucilla, but I am going to have to disagree with you on a number of things.
    First of all, I view her aversion to dark colors not as an extravagance or by-product of her spoiled nature, but rather, as a result of an internal struggle that everyone faces. Her blindness is her imperfection, just as a crooked nose or a weirdly shaped face might be your own insecurity. She is blind, and dark colors are a constant reminder of her blindness. Can you imagine someone constantly bringing up the one thing about yourself that makes you feel insecure? Well, this is exactly what Lucilla goes through every single day.
    Secondly, I also disagree with you about her being an unrelatable character to the average reader. Yes, she is incredibly beautiful. Yes, she is able to navigate the world around her despite her blindness. But how do these things exempt her from receiving pity and compassion? That is kind of like saying because someone is rich, beautiful, and intelligent that we do not need to care about them because they obviously don’t have a soul or any internal struggles (which is completely illogical).
    And finally, I am going to have to disagree with you about her being spoiled. As imperfect humans, we are born selfish, but we are not born spoiled. And we only become more and more selfish when we are spoiled. It is important to keep in mind that Lucilla is only spoiled because nurture has made her so, because those around her have MOLDED her into being so. She has grown up having everyone waiting on her hand and foot, so why wouldn’t she have that same sense of entitlement when she was older? It is, after all, how she was raised. So where you call it spoiled, I call it a failure on the part of those who raised her.

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  3. I agree with your general assessment of Lucilla. I think important to your opinion of Miss Finch is also the title of the book. Poor Miss Finch sets up an expectation for readers to be sympathetic to Lucilla’s plight. Almost as if we are told, as readers, that we should feel sorry for her, by virtue of her tragic circumstances. I, too, found her to be a generally an un-relatable character. Not only does she expect others around her to wait on her hand and foot, she also expects them to dress as she pleases EVEN THOUGH she cannot see them. She says that she detests “dark” colours, but Lucilla has been blind her entire life at this point in the text. How can she possibly know what “dark” is? She cannot know any different.

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