I am reading Wilkie Collins. Again. The Woman in White. And I love it again. I am quite fond of Walter Hartright, and I love, love, Marian Halcombe. She is one of the most interesting female characters I know of. Ever. And what a description, and what a role physical beauty plays here. We meet with her turning back to the Walter – and to the reader. And with Walter we admire her back, her stature, her body, and then she turns, and… her face isn’t up to contemporary beauty standards. Oops. And look at the description – she isn’t really ugly
The lady's complexion was almost swarthy, and the dark down on her upper lip was almost a moustache. She had a large, firm, masculine mouth and jaw; prominent, piercing, resolute brown eyes; and thick, coal-black hair, growing unusually low down on her forehead. Her expression -- bright frank, and intelligent -- appeared, while she was silent, to be altogether wanting in those feminine attractions of gentleness and pliability, without which the beauty of the handsomest woman alive is beauty incomplete.
She mostly isn’t feminine enough in her expressions. Then she starts talking and all ugliness is forgotten. Until, of course, Laura appears, the vision of a perfect beauty, not perfect in its features, but in its influence over a man. I don’t find Laura interesting per ce. I like her, she is a sweetie, but she is always an object – of love, greed, villainy, or nobility. She is like Irene from the Forsyte Saga, slipping through other lives, influencing other lives, but never acting themselves.
Beauty does mean a lot in our first impressions – whether we admit it or not. But the second impressions help us with a touch of reality.
And I loved Walter in the fateful meeting on the road to London with the Woman in White. How sincerely perplexed he is! How he is trying to justify himself in helping the stranger!
As she repeated the words for the third time, she carne close to me and laid her hand, with a sudden gentle stealthiness, on my bosom -- a thin hand; a cold hand (when I removed it with mine) even on that sultry night. Remember that I was young; remember that the hand which touched me was a woman's.
More to come. ;)
And now, I have a favour to ask. Could please think something encouraging for me tomorrow around noon EST? I have an interview, and I really want this job. Pretty please? ;)
Finally, a question: what are your favourite female characters in books? Any time, any country?