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Last Updated May 10, 2024.

Aurora Leigh

Throughout Aurora Leigh, the dynamic title character moves from an idealistic young girl to a somewhat disillusioned woman. In the end, she discovers she can finally embrace the love she has always possessed, even if she never realized it was there. At age twenty, Aurora is committed to her poetic ambitions. She finds great wonder and delight in nature and is determined to express her discoveries in poetry. Art is her life; she will pursue it faithfully no matter the cost.

Aurora soon discovers, however, that true art is not so easy to grasp. As she matures, she realizes her work is not always the best; while it pleases idealistic young people, it is far from the poetic perfection she seeks. Aurora becomes disillusioned with her life in London, but her search for art is no more successful in Paris or Italy.

However, Aurora is not always especially insightful about herself. As a poet, she sees deeply into human nature and the natural world and can express her perspectives beautifully. Yet, she fails to recognize the truth in herself. She fails to admit her deep love for Romney, for instance, and she fails to realize that her ultimate book of poetry, at least in many people’s eyes, is indeed among the highest forms of art.

In the end, however, Aurora realizes the pride that has driven her for ten years and lets go of it. She embraces the humility of love—and embraces Romney—finally allowing herself to feel the love she has suppressed for so long, understanding at last that love and the highest art only exist together.

Romney Leigh

Romney Leigh is an idealist who suffers greatly for his high ideals—that is until he realizes the confusion of his vision for a better future. His ideals are often quite warped, as Romney sees all kinds of social ills around him and believes that if he works hard enough and appeals to the right people, he can contribute greatly to solving the world’s problems.

While Romney does have a certain compassion for the poor people he serves, his actions are not always realistic and tend to be somewhat self-serving. For instance, his desire to marry Marian arises from love for her, but he also longs to show the world that social class is merely a construct that people can overcome. He also wants a wife to work beside him in his activist endeavors. Romney’s lack of clear vision also extends to his relationship with Lady Waldemar. He appreciates her contributions to his efforts so much that he fails to notice her true character—although he does wake up enough to avoid marrying her.

Ironically, Romney’s internal vision only clears after his external vision departs. His disastrous attempts to create a home for the poor out of Leigh Hall lead to a tragic fire and his blinding, and he finally notices that his idealism has always been skewed. He has failed to account for all the follies and wickedness of human nature. Only after the tragedy can Romney humbly admit both his failure and love for Aurora, then start on a path toward more realistic goals and true success in love.

Marian Erle

Marian Erle’s innocence shatters early in her life; she suffers great abuse at the hands of her parents, and her mother tries to sell her into prostitution. Yet, Marian never stops reaching for the higher things in life. She has a strong sense of beauty and a strong desire for the love she knows exists in the world. She is not overly adept, however, at determining what is truly beautiful and truly filled with love.

In fact, for a long time, Marian is quite easily deceived. She believes she loves Romney and that he loves...

(This entire section contains 975 words.)

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her, but she later realizes that her love has only been deep admiration and that Romney loves Aurora. Marian is also captivated by Lady Waldemar, in all her beauty and apparent concern. However, the girl does not recognize that appearance and reality are sometimes very different.

Marian reaches her full maturity after she is raped and gives birth to her son. She feels the old Marian is dead and that her life is now about loving and caring for her child. Marian, as a mother, comes to understand her previous mistakes and realizes the path through life she must now take. She is no longer willing to embrace what merely seems to be true—as in Romney’s desire to marry her and care for the child—rather, she faces reality and helps others do so as well as she unselfishly encourages the love between Romney and Aurora.

Lady Waldemar

Lady Waldemar is the villain of the story. She is a selfish woman who desires her way. As a wealthy, upper-class lady, she is used to getting exactly that. For much of the novel, Lady Waldemar desires Romney Leigh and is willing to do nearly anything to get him—including deceiving Marian. Lady Waldemar later claims that she never wanted to hurt Marian, only get rid of her, but she cares little for the consequences of her desires and actions.

Lady Waldemar, however, may ironically be the character with the clearest vision for most of the story. She sees beneath Romney’s idealism, and she knows his love for Aurora and Aurora’s love for Romney. She understands Romney’s real motives in marrying Marian. Even still, this realistic vision does not stop her from trying to get her way and descending into hatred when she does not.




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