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Written by Yang (Jenny) Bai
Count Fosco's foreign features
The appearance of the arch villian Count Fosco is described in very colourful and vivid language. Fosco is described as being extremely fat, with Napoleonic features. He has a fondness for animals such as canaries and mice, and enjoys having mice crawling about him. The image of Fosco is decidedly foreign. It is not surprising that the author would wish to cast the arch villian in a foreign mould. In Victorian literature, the arch villian is often a foreigner with dubious foreign morals who comes to corrupt the so-called morally virtuous English society. By portraying Fosco with the facial features of Britian’s most hated enemy- Napoleon Banaparte, the author places him in the mould of the suspicious foreigner and enables the British readers to develop an instant mistrust towards him.
Marian Halcombe's masculine features
The image of Marian Halcombe is also worth commenting, because it totally defies the conventional Victorian female image. Marian is described of having a feminine physical form, but she also possesses very masculine features. She is described as having a “large, firm, masculine mouth and jaw”, with “almost a moustache”. When Walter first encounters Marian’s face, he is surprised and amazed. This is because her masculine facial features are totally at odds with her graceful feminine figure. This discrepancy has great significance and sheds light on Marian’s character. It shows that Marian has a woman’s body but a man’s head. Although she is trapped in a woman’s body and confined to the limitations of a woman’s life; she possesses the characteristics of a Victorian man. In the story, Marian exhibits all the conventionally masculine qualities by being brave, determined and resourceful in her attempts to defend the weak and self-effacing Laura.
Laura Fairlie's delicate appearance
Laura’s physical image is also highly significant. She is attributed with highly feminine characteristics. She is described as possessing delicate features, gentle charms, soft colouring in her eyes and hair. She is fair and delicate with an innocent and truthful expression in her eyes. Laura is also described as being an expert musician, a highly prized talent in Victorian ladies. In short, Laura is painted in a highly feminized manner, and is presented as the contrasting character to the strong and masculine Marian. Laura’s feminine physical form serves to prepare the readers for her highly feminine character.
Anne Catherick's mysterious image
Anne is dressed from head to toe in white. Her appearance in the story is always sudden and of a short duration. Anne’s repeated appearances as the mysterious white woman gradually increases the suspense of the story. Her emotional distress and distracted manners surround her with an aura of unfathomable mystery. She haunts Blackwater Park like a ghost, making the sinister setting of Blackwater Park all the more uncanny. Anne’s ghostly image haunts the story and instills the story with an aura of suspense, tension and enigma.
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