Beauty and the Beast

I couldn’t help but notice the contrasting characterizations of Ayesha and Ustane throughout the section. Several of the previous posts go into detail about Ayesha’s supernatural power, but I think Haggard’s portrayal of Ustane, who seems to conform to Victorian female norms conveyed through her loyalty to and protection of Leo, is equally useful in considering Ayesha’s greatness.

We are first introduced to Ustane as a “handsome and exceedingly prompt young lady” (79) in stark contrast with Ayesha whose beauty is a force of power that strikes fear into men and ‘baboons’ alike. She (Ustane, not She) is typically mentioned doing some kind of domestic work such as “washing a deep spear wound in his side with cold water preparatory to binding it up with linen” (100) and is frequently referred to as “the girl” Ustane, further emphasizing her primitive femininity.

Consider the phrasing of the following passage: “though some of the women, not expecting Ustane, showed a decided inclination to follow us even there” (83). While she is mentioned as distinct from the rest of the women by the token of being mentioned, Haggard’s choice of the negation “not excepting” instead of “including” serves to characterize Ustane, the only female character besides Ayesha worthy of a name, as unexceptional even amongst the masses.

Through both diction and syntax, Haggard is able to familiarize the mortal Ustane by portraying Victorian convention in a foreign setting and enhance the opaque mystique of the supernatural Ayesha by emphasizing the unfamiliar notion of male subjection. This contrast, in combination with the homoerotic undertones of the male adventure plot uncovered in our discussion of the previous section makes it seem like unconventional gendering will play a crucial role in framing the remainder of She.

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