The paper offers a close reading of Wilkie Collins’ 1872 novel, Poor Miss Finch through the lens of fairy tales, gender, and disability studies. In Poor Miss Finch, we follow the life of a young blind woman, Lucilla Finch, who falls in love with a man named Oscar Dubourg, whose appearance can be described as “monstrous”. This plot evokes the popular tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, which the paper argues is the inspiration of Poor Miss Finch. In his work, Collins incorporates and rethinks many elements of the fairy tale to fit them into the 19th-century genre of the realist novel. Oscar is not beastly in the traditional fairy-tale sense, rather his inner turmoil (his mental weakness, femininity, and possible queerness) are manifested on his body in the form of epilepsy and discolored skin. Thus, he is transformed into an Other, a figure in Victorian literature that is often hidden from (public) view. The fact that Lucilla cannot see Oscar (and knows nothing about his Otherness) conjures up another well-known tale, the myth of Cupid and Psyche, that first appeared in Roman prose-writer Lucius Apuleius’ The Golden Ass in the 2nd century CE. This story features Psyche, who marries the god Cupid; however, he remains invisible to her throughout their marriage. Just like Lucilla, Psyche is blind to her lover’s true personality and origins. The paper examines how Collins uses disability (both Lucilla’s and Oscar’s) to reflect on contemporary social issues and gender roles with the disguise of fairy tales and myths.
"Blindness and the Beast: Disability, Fairy Tale and Myth in Wilkie Collins’ Poor Miss Finch,"
Journal of Gender, Ethnic, and Cross-Cultural Studies: Vol. 2:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://epublications.marquette.edu/jgecp/vol2/iss1/5