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a matter of character Miss Esther Summerson

By Rissi C.

conscientious of her own unknown origins—she has never known the love of a mother or father, but was raised by a strict woman who cared little for her emotional well-being. Just as it in the era when

this story was written, today there are still many girls who can relate to her situation and identify with certain of her insecurities. I recently saw a television series called Life, Unexpected. In it, the teenage Lux tracks down her biological parents so she can liberate herself from being a ward of the state. As a child, she wasn‟t adopted because of a heart defect that prevented potential parents from looking beyond her physical limitations to see that underneath the medical charts she was just a scared three-year-old who craved the love and attention of a mommy and a daddy. The theme of wanting to know more about your past and needing parental ties to feel accepted is still relevant, and possibly is what makes us care so deeply for Esther, beyond her kindness to her deeper faults and equally her many virtues.

Esther grows up to be

outwardly confident in spite of her sad and unfortunate circumstances. Her change over the course of the story is remarkable and inspiring. Raised to believe she is “nothing,” Esther‟s idea of her life is that she is nobody yet what she allows others to see is a woman undaunted in difficult and complicated surroundings. Emotionally, she is a mess, as her many self-doubts revolve around and feed off of other‟s impressions of her. Due to her loveless upbringing, she has difficulty believing that anyone will place even a minimal trust in her. Jarndyce‟s willingness to let her run his household gives her greater self-worth but she lacks the confidence to make her own way in life; she accepts his marriage proposal for a multitude of reasons, none of which involve love. She sees in it a security net and a way to repay his kindness, when she should come to believe that she is worth loving and deserves a marriage for love. Even though she does have a certain amount of affection for Jarndyce, her acceptance

doesn‟t come from the right motivation or place in her heart. Fortunately, he comes to see this and encourages her to find true happiness. Unlike Lux, who most of

the time believed the world revolved around her, Esther never takes out the misery of her lack of self-awareness on the world and offers love and forgiveness to one and all. She eventually finds answers and learns she is the result of a night of passion between lovers, confirming her illegitimacy but not daunting her spirits or her desire to know her mother in spite of her mistakes. In the Victorian Era, an unmarried woman with a child raised more than one brow and ostracized the child from all polite society, a concept we may have difficulty accepting today, since in our time it barely inspires a raised brow when a woman says she is a “single” mom. Where many of Dickens‟

stories revolve around women in some part, Esther is remarkable for her ability to overcome the reality of her hard upbringing. She touches the lives of the many people she comes into

contact with in the most insignificant ways, and that says something of her character—she may just be a literary heroine but she is one to greatly admire. All through her unusual

and at times difficult circumstances, she remains quiet and content, ever aware of the needs of others and seeking to improve their lives in whatever way she can. None of them are the same for having known her. Her sweetness inspires Mr. Jarndyce (even if she cannot change his tendency to be a little too accommodating), her loyal friendship assists Ada through her difficulties, her tendency to love enables her to offer forgiveness to the woman who has wronged her, and her kindness and earnest nature allows her to meet a man who loves her and will offer her the life that she fully deserves. Were it possible, I think

Esther would be someone lovely to sit down and chat with over a strong cup of English tea. If only I had a literary time machine at my disposal... ♥

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