Basil By Wilkie Collins

A portrait of a girl evocative of Margaret in Basil By Wilkie Collins

“Basil” By Wilkie Collins: A Journey Into Victorian Intrigue

Introducing “Basil”: Exploring Wilkie Collins’s Second Literary Gem

“Basil” by Wilkie Collins, published in 1852, is a narrative rich with intrigue, emotion, and societal commentary within its pages. Wilkie Collins is a prominent figure in the vast landscape of Victorian literature, renowned for his intricate tales of mystery, suspense, and psychological depth. While his works like “The Woman in White” and “The Moonstone” have garnered widespread acclaim, “Basil” remains a hidden literary gem not so popular and acclaimed by enthusiasts of the genre. As readers embark on this journey through the labyrinth of human nature, they are beckoned into a world where love, betrayal and obsession intertwine, and the boundaries between reality and illusion blur.

The Intricacies of Love and Obsession in “Basil” by Wilkie Collins

At the heart of “Basil” lies a profound exploration of the human psyche and the tumultuous nature of love. Through the eyes of the protagonist, Basil, readers are immersed in a whirlwind of emotions as he navigates the complexities of infatuation and disillusionment. Initially captivated by the enchanting Margaret Sherwin, Basil’s perception of love is soon shattered by the revelation of her true nature. However, despite the warning signs and the rational voice of reason, Basil finds himself inexorably drawn into a web of obsession, unable to extricate himself from the allure of forbidden desire. In the tumultuous journey that ensues, Collins masterfully dissects the intricacies of human relationships, laying bare the raw vulnerability beneath the surface of passion.

Main Characters in “Basil”: A Portrait of Complexity

In Wilkie Collins’s “Basil,” a rich array of characters propels the narrative forward with their diverse personalities and motivations. Central to the story is Basil, a 24-year-old grappling with the complexities of love and obsession. The dynamics within Basil’s family are heavily influenced by his father, a passionate devotee of ancestry whose name remains unspoken but whose presence is deeply felt, often adding tension to familial relationships. Clara, Basil’s devoted younger sister, provides a stabilising force amidst this tension, whose unwavering support is an anchor during tumultuous times. The Sherwin family, newly prosperous London linen drapers, introduces Stephen Sherwin, an ambitious man with grand aspirations, and his meek wife, Mrs. Sherwin. Their daughter, Margaret Sherwin, possesses a magnetic allure, becoming entangled in a clandestine relationship with Robert Mannion, Sherwin’s trusted clerk and her secret spouse. Additionally, Dr. John Bernard, a friend of Ralph’s, adds further complexity to the narrative with his involvement in the characters’ lives. Through the intricate interactions and conflicts among these characters, Collins skillfully explores themes of love, betrayal, and societal pressures, crafting a narrative that enthrals readers with its depth and intrigue.

Mannion’s Vengeful Pursuit: A Dark Shadow Over Basil’s Fate

Mannion’s relentless pursuit of Basil, driven by his desire for revenge, adds a sinister dimension to the unfolding narrative. The disfigurement inflicted upon Mannion by Basil becomes a catalyst for his unyielding quest for vengeance, as he becomes consumed by a singular determination to make Basil pay for his perceived transgressions. Mannion’s presence looms large throughout the story, casting a shadow of fear and uncertainty over Basil’s life. His relentless pursuit is a constant reminder of the consequences of past actions, propelling the plot forward with a sense of urgency and danger. As the tension between Mannion and Basil escalates, the stakes are raised, leading to an electrifying finale that will keep readers riveted until the last page.

Exploring Femininity and Society through Clara and Margaret in “Basil” by Wilkie Collins

In “Basil,” the parallelism between Clara and Margaret is a powerful symbol, reflecting contrasting aspects of femininity and societal expectations in Victorian England. Clara embodies virtue, loyalty, and selflessness, representing society’s ideal image of womanhood. Her unwavering support for her brother Basil and steadfast moral compass sharply contrast Margaret’s tumultuous and morally ambiguous nature. Despite her outward defiance and independence, Margaret ultimately adheres to societal expectations by secretly marrying within her class. This juxtaposition highlights the tension between societal norms and personal agency, inviting readers to contemplate the complexities of female identity and the constraints imposed by Victorian society. Through their parallel journeys, Wilkie Collins offers a nuanced exploration of gender roles and morality, challenging readers to reconsider traditional notions of femininity and virtue.

Contrasting Symbolism of Clara and Margaret in Wilkie Collins’s “Basil”

Clara and Margaret emerge as stark opposites in Wilkie Collins’ “Basil,” symbolising contrasting attitudes towards sexuality and morality. Fair-haired and virtuous, Clara embodies purity, loyalty, and selflessness, drawing Basil towards lofty ideals of spirituality and intellectual connection. In contrast, Margaret, with her dark hair and duplicitous nature, represents sensuality and cruelty, enticing Basil with libidinous impulses that he struggles to control. This dichotomy reflects Basil’s internal conflict between his desire for purity and his carnal instincts. In his dreams, this division manifests as a struggle between a fair creature in pure white robes leading him towards heaven and a dark-haired seductress dragging him into the woods, symbolising his internal battle between virtue and temptation. Despite Basil’s initial attraction to Margaret’s allure, his eventual retirement with Clara suggests a longing for the purity and untainted goodness she represents, albeit in an unattainable form within the confines of societal norms.

Societal Norms and Gender Roles in “Basil” by Wilkie Collins

Set against the backdrop of Victorian England, “Basil” serves as a meaningful analysis of the rigid societal norms and gender roles that governed the era. In the character of Margaret Sherwin, Collins presents a compelling challenge to traditional notions of femininity and virtue. Unconventional and enigmatic, Margaret defies the expectations placed upon women of her time, forging her path with a defiance that fascinates and unsettles those around her. Through her interactions with Basil and other characters, Collins exposes Victorian society’s hypocrisy and double standards, shedding light on the oppressive constraints that stifled individuality and autonomy. As the narrative unfolds, readers are called upon to confront their preconceptions and consider the actual cost of conformity in a society bound by rigid hierarchies and social mores.

The Timeless Legacy of “Basil”: Reflecting on Wilkie Collins’s Narrative Mastery

“Basil” showcases Wilkie Collins’s lasting impact as a masterful storyteller through its vivid prose and compelling characterisations. In crafting a narrative that transcends the confines of its time, Collins explores themes of identity, morality, and the nature of love with depth and nuance that are valid also. As readers journey through the pages of “Basil,” they are captivated by the timeless allure of Victorian literature and the enduring power of a masterfully crafted tale. Though “Basil” may dwell in the shadow of Collins’s more famous works, its exploration of the human condition and poignant social commentary ensure its rightful place among the classics of Victorian literature, where it continues to enchant and inspire readers over time.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments