Can anyone be as invisible as Linda Wallheim?



TheBishopsWife-bittyOne of the remarkable things about the Utah of The Bishop’s Wife is how integrated into the nonChurch community the bishop is. For instance, sometimes the police call to keep him up-to-date on investigations that involve members of his ward. Wow! (But I’ve never been a bishop. Maybe clergy gets incoroporated like this all over the world. Seems pretty wild to me though.)

Anyway. In contrast to that, Linda Wallheim, bishop’s wife, is practically invisible.

For instance, on page 123 (quotation-disclaimer reminder), the police are investigating a phone call that Linda received, yet they never speak with her about the content of the conversation.

Or, most notably, on page 324, when she walks into a hostage situation:

By the time the SWAT team saw me, I was already knocking on the glass door and [the hostage] was opening it.

 It is a bit absurd of course, but it’s fulfilling two functions. First, it’s emphasizing the male/female differences in the culture. Second, her invisibility seems to be a spiritual gift that allows Linda to infiltrate situations and become useful. If you follow the link in the previous sentence, after a long list of gifts of the spirit, you’ll find this:

. . . the bishop of the church . . . [is] to have it given unto [him] to discern all those gifts . . . .

 In other words, from a doctrinal standpoint, Bishop Wallheim is fulfilling his role when he sends his wife out, invisible behind her platter of cinnamon rolls, slipping into people’s lives, calm, plain, letting them project what they need to upon her. Or, as her son says, not making waves “lets [Linda] see thing that [the bishop] doesn’t. [She] understand[s] people in so many ways. [She doesn’t] judge them” (24).

Maybe that’s what Linda’s invisibility actually is: Minimizing herself, in order to allow, charitably, others to be their true selves?


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5 thoughts on “Can anyone be as invisible as Linda Wallheim?”

  1. It’s also a common trope in mystery novels, right? The unthreatening older woman? But that’s part of what makes using a bishop’s wife as a Miss Marple — there are extra layers there to play with and that play into the demands of a mystery.

  2. .

    That’s true. I’m not enough of a mystery reader to see how she’s playing with these One Story kind of ideas, but I did watch a lot of Murder She Wrote as a kid.

  3. One is that it’s easier for her to have an excuse to get involved.

    Another is that she has a network of sources because of her role as bishop’s wife (and because of her history in the ward and all the factors that go into her husband being called as bishop — inspiration is important, but so is having someone in that role that members feel somewhat comfortable with).

    Another is that she and the bishop can play good cop/bad cop; confidante/authority figure.

  4. Oh, and a big one is confidentiality both what information her bishop husband is able/willing to share with her and what she is willing to share with him.

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