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Essay about Inner Beauty in H. Rider Haggard's Novel, She

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     In H. Rider Haggard's novel She, two men go in search of an immortal queen with whom they both fall in love. The men, Holly and Leo, are opposites in nearly every way; one is intelligent but physically repulsive, the other handsome but rather slow and boring. From the beginning, they are nicknamed "Beauty and the Beast," and like Beauty and the Beast, Leo is admired by those around him while Holly is rejected and isolated.

Between them is Ayesha, or She-who-must-be-obeyed: beautiful but dangerous, intelligent and devoted but destructive, all-powerful but isolated by her power. Although She falls desperately in love with Leo, it is clear that her strongest bond, one of mutual understanding, respect, and love, is with Holly. But in spite of the wisdom of thousands of years that Ayesha possesses, it is shallow, physical beauty that leads her to choose Leo, and leads to her destruction.

L. Horace Holly, the narrator of She, is a highly intelligent man, a university professor and a scholar whose abilities do not go unnoticed by those around him. But he is ugly, so ugly that nearly everyone rejects him in spite of the fact that there is "something very pleasing and genial about [his] eye" (2). From the moment the editor meets him, he is struck by Holly's "...dark hair and small eyes, and the hair [that] grew right down on his forehead, and his whiskers [that] grew right up to his hair, so that there was uncommonly little of his countenance to be seen" (2).

 

The comparision made between Holly and the Beast is a logical one; his ugliness is extremely apelike. His arms are disproportionately long, his chest deep. and his face almost entirely covered with hair. Billali, the Amahagger priest, nicknames him "Baboo...


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...ave thereby rejected the superficial desire for beauty that had cursed and isolated her. Instead, she chose to ignore the beauty that existed within Holly and within herself, and so was doomed to die and start again in another life, where she would hopefully find the courage to choose the beauty within.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

Cohen, Morton N. Rider Haggard: His life & works. NY: Walker & Company, 1960.

Doane, Mary Ann. Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis. NY: Routledge, 1991.

Haggard, H. Rider. Ayesha: The Return of "She". 1904-5. NY: Dover, 1978.

---, She. New York: Oxford University Press, 1887, 1991.

---, The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard: 1914-1925. D.S. Higgins, editor. NY: Stein & Day, 1980.

---, Wisdom's Daughter: The Life & Love Story of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. 1923. Amereon House. 1975.

 


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