Physical Appearances in Great Expectations & Reuben Sachs

When reading Reuben Sachs by Amy Levy for this week, a description that jumped out at me within the first few pages was the physical description of Adelaide and her mother. “She was richly and very fashionably dressed in an unbecoming gown of green shot silk,” Levy writes, “and wore big diamond solitaires in her ears. She and her mother were indeed never seen without such jewels…” Immediately in the book, this shows the keen eye given to women’s physical appearance at the time. This can be seen in other texts that we’ve read, such as with Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Appearing in an old wedding dress throughout the book, Miss Havisham shows the significance both of appearance and its use in fiction to communicate a deeper meaning (in this case, it’s how her life is defined by the tragedy of her wedding day). As Reuben Sachs moves forward, it becomes more evident the importance of Levy’s physical descriptions in painting visions of her characters. From the detailed showcase of the complexion and air of a Jewish man to the unfolding of Aunt Ada’s appearance just before she is introduced.

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