n presenting the Warden's daughter, Eleanor, through the eyes of her would-be lover, Trollope emphasizes a form of beauty that is obviously socially constructed; that is, she has a kind of physical attractiveness that appears discoverable only by those of a certain class and in a certain social situation. Perhaps equally important, Eleanor Harding's physical beauty simultaneously is and is not purely physical, for it seems to arise, not from striking visible details, but from their alliance with her personality. On the one hand, such an emphasis seems a typically of much Victorian fiction that emphjasizes heroines, such as Margaret Hale, are more than beautiful in a conventionally striking way. Other other, the narrator's statements that she does not have the kind of striking beauty "that rivets attention, demands instant wonder" seems in part to arise in an upper-class aesthetic emphasizing reserve and reticence.
How beautiful Eleanor appeared to him as she slowly walked into the room! Not for nothing had all those little cares been taken. Though her sister, the archdeacon's wife, had spoken slightingly of her charms, Eleanor was very beautiful when seen aright. Hers was not of those impassive faces, which have the beauty of a marble bust; finely chiselled features, perfect in every line, true to the rules of symmetry, as lovely to a stranger as to a friend, unvarying unless in sickness, or as age affects them. She had no startling brilliancy of beauty, no pearly whiteness, no radiant carnation: she had not the majestic contour that rivets attention, demands instant wonder, and then disappoints by the coldness of its charms. You might pass Eleanor Harding in the street without notice, but you could hardly pass an evening with her and not lose your heart.
She had never appeared more lovely to her lover than she now did. Her face was animated though it was serious, and her full dark lustrous eyes shone with anxious energy; her hand trembled as she took his, and she could hardly pronounce his name, when she addressed him. Bold wished with all his heart that the Australian scheme was in the act of realisation, and that he and Eleanor were away together, never to hear further of the lawsuit. [Chapter 11, "Iphigenia"]
Why does Trollope name his chapter by alluding to a Greek myth, and what tone does he adopt in doing so?
Last modified 2000