Body Image in "Emily of New Moon" with Reference to the Stages of her Cognitive and Physical Development in Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence (9-13 Years)
Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2001 10 Seiten
’Oh, I must write, Aunt Elisabeth,’ said Emily gravely, folding her slender, beautiful hands on the table and looking straight into Aunt Elisabeth’s angry face [...] ‘You see, it’s this way. It is in me. I can’t help it. And Father said I was always to keep on writing. He said I would be famous some day.’” (306)
These sentences are taken from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s most autobiographical novel Emily of New Moon (1923) which is set in Prince Edward Island in Canada. The book draws a picture of a child who has lost her father and therefore is forced to get along with her New Moon kinship, who cares for her from that time on. It is no wonder that conflicts are pre-programmed between Emily, the young author who urges for freedom, and the conventional Blair Water people, especially Aunt Elisabeth, who is integrated in the social constrains of her time. Like Maud, as Montgomery was called, Emily nevertheless makes her way in the Victorian society in the beginning of the twentieth century and looks forward to a successful writing career at the end of the novel.
The aim of this paper is to trace Emily’s relation to her developing body in this first part of the Emily-trilogy, that is in the age from nine to thirteen. Furthermore, it is important to look at other people’s behaviour according to Emily’s own body image, which is a symbol for and immediately linked to the limitation of freedom the girl experiences in many different areas of the puritan society she lives in. To illustrate this connection, the main part of this paper deals with a chronological analysis of the different stages of Emily’s cognitive as well as physical development in middle childhood and adolescence and the reactions on it from her own and society’s point of view.
General Description of Emily’s Outward Appearance:
As in Anne of Green Gables (1908), Montgomery’s most successful novel, in Emily of New Moon, hair plays a very important role. It is an expression of the traits of character of the author’s protagonists. Therefore, Emily is introduced into the novel as nine years old girl with a “long, heavy braid of glossy, jet-black hair” (4) which symbolises her
[...] talent for writing, her more thoughtful and nuanced creativity that leaves a recoverable record. As the Pre-Raphaelite painters associated women’s hair with weaving yarns of spinning tales, so Montgomery locates power and creativity in Anne’s and Emily’s hair, which is ‘profuse’ and flowing like her words.
Aunt Elisabeth who unconsciously feels the relation between Emily’s hair and her inborn creativity tries to cut her wings by the attempt of cutting Emily’s hair (105-107). As Mc Master points out, to Aunt Elisabeth writing stories is “an alien growth that must be pruned off ruthlessly.” But while Emily obeys her aunt in everything she can, although she often cannot understand her viewpoints, the girl is not able to follow Aunt Elisabeth’s command this time. For the first time in their relationship, Emily triumphs over her aunt: “Aunt Elisabeth returned with the scissors; they clicked suggestively as she opened them; that click, as if by magic, seemed to loosen something – some strange formidable power in Emily’s soul. [...] she felt an uprush as from unknown depths of some irresistible surge of energy.” (106). This nearly supernatural power Emily feels lets one think of the biblical Samson figure, whose physical power was immediately linked to his very long hair. He lost his physical power, a gift from God, when his hair had been cut off through a woman’s trick. As Samson has lost his physical power, Emily would have suffered mentally from this deep intrusion into her private sphere.
Not only Emily’s hair is described as very special, but also her smile: according to her father, Douglas Starr, “[her] smile [begins] at the corner of her lips and spread[s] over her face in a slow, subtle, very wonderful way.” (4). According to Mr. Starr, Emily’s smile is the only physical inheritance from her mother. But later in the book the Murray kinship states that she inherited also her very long lashes from Mrs. Starr. Furthermore, Emily has large, purplish grey eyes, black brows and a white forehead, “[...] too high for beauty [...]”, which is an inheritance from her father (5). The girl’s face is described as “pale and oval”, her mouth as “sensitive” (5). Very characteristic are her ears which are pinted like that of elves, so that her father calls Emily “elfkin” (3, 5). Mr. Starr is the first one who gives Emily this nickname, but not the last one who connects her ears with that of elves. Later in Emily of New Moon, Father Cassidy as well as Dean Priest connect her outer appearance and her creativity and imagination to fantasia figures of elves and fairyland (193-194, 266-267).
Thus, the description of Emily in her time in Maywood is very positive, also because it is often her father who tells the reader very lovingly about Emily’s outward appearance. Only Ellen Greene tells Emily she would “talk, act and look queer and be too old for her age” (21). While Mrs. Greene is suspicious about Emily’s imagination most people are interested in her just because of it. However, when Emily has to live at New Moon, she experiences much more hostility towards her outer appearance and behaviour, especially from her Aunt Elisabeth and the girls in school than in Maywood.
 L. M. Montgomery, Emily of New Moon. (1923; N. Y.: Bantam Books, 1993) (All page references within the text refer to this edition.)
 Juliet Mc Master, „Taking Control: Hair, Red, Black, Gold, and Nut-Brown“, Making Avonlea: L. M. Montgomery and Popular Culture (MA), ed. Irene Gammel, 66-67.
 Mc Master 67.
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- Institution / Hochschule
- Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
- Body Image Emily Moon Reference Stages Cognitive Physical Development Middle Childhood Early Adolescence Years)