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|GR Focus: Characters' appearance
Written by Delories
(3/30/2008 2:43 p.m.)
Emma: We are told in the third word of the novel ("handsome") that she's good-looking, and in Chapt 5 Mrs Weston describes her near "perfect beauty", and "loveliness itself" and Mr K agrees. We also get that she is tall, with a fine ("firm") figure, hazel eyes, and "blooming" complexion (i.e. not pale). I can't think of another JA novel in which so much was made of the heroine's appearance.
Harriet: The ON tells us she's a "very pretty girl", which Emma amplifies to "beautiful girl". She is in some ways Emma's opposite: blue eyes, short, plump (rather than hazel, tall, slimmer), fair-skinned. We must remember, in our era of obsession with thinness, that "plump" was a positive word in JA's day. The blue eyes are emphasised, via repetition, by the ON as well as Emma's thoughts about Harriet, so they would seem to be her salient physical feature.
Mr Elton: Is called "a very pretty young man" by DOMW (Dear Old Mr Woodhouse). So he's good-looking, too, but I wonder (L&T question coming on) whether calling him "pretty" isn't somewhat faint praise, i.e. that there is something sort of puppyish about him? Also, DOMW says "pretty" about lots of things (including servants' manners), so it's sort of diluted by that.
DOMW: We are told that he is old and somewhat of an invalid, although that's more generic than a description of his appearance.
Mr Knightley: "So very fine a man", says Harriet. Emma refers to his "commanding" (she should know...) manner, and fine figure. So we know that, perhaps in contrast to Mr Elton, he's a "manly man".
Miss Bates: "Plain", says the ON. Poor Miss Bates...
I can't find anything physical about Mr and Mrs Weston (I've always assumed that the latter was attractive, to snag Mr W in spite of her governess status, but given what we know about his practical turn of mind, that's not necessarily so).
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