"This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve."
We've been reading The Woman in White for a week now, and what have we learned? Firstly, its preface is called a Preamble, which gives me the giddies in language anticipation. Secondly, its first sentence (noted above) makes it perfectly clear what we're in for: Victorian Victorianisms and the exceptionally outdated gender ideals therein. Also, I'ma say there shouldn't be a comma there, Wilkie! Breaking up a compound. Like a harlot.
Anywho, so far, we've been taken through the story by young Mr. Hartright, an all-around squishy man who clings to those gender ideals like a woman in white to her privacy. He's a bit, he's just, he's not a bad man. He's just clueless. Never more so than when he meets Marian, who is widely agreed to be one of if not THE. BEST. part of this book. (Marian! She's such a fast talker — I feel like Katharine Hepburn should play her. And she should be an old-timey newspaper reporter. And wear jaunty hats.) Suffice it to say that, when he sees her from behind, he's all "Bah BAM!" and when she turns around he's all "Oh, well. Nothankyou." It is amusing to see how thoroughly confused Hartright is by her incongruous gender traits. Her elegant movement, her womanly form, her masculine face, her frank and lively conversation. Maybe it's Wilkie getting us (and Hartright) ready for the theme of the story. You see this thing you think is this? Yeah, it's not. (Involves no ghosts.)
Marian's half-sister, Laura, is Hartright's other student, and when he meets her, he falls promptly in lurve. And just as promptly into a pit of despair. She is, of course, engaged. But then, a letter! The reappearance of the woman in white, aka Anne Catherick! Her horror at the mention of Laura's fiancé, Sir Percival Glyde! The expulsion (sort of) of Hartright from the Fairlie house! Things, they be happenin', right-all-right.