Digital Ischemia

20/05/2019

Grey Eyes

Filed under: Essays — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 10:50

There seem to be a lot of fictional characters out there with grey eyes. Are there any real people with this attribute? I have seen blue, turquoise, green, amber, brown, and intermediate shades and flecky or ringed combinations. I see these with my own mongrel eyes which appear to be teal flecked with shitey broun. But never grey.

“Her hair was dark red, but her eyes grey, and light at whiles and yet at whiles deep” William Morris, The Well at the World’s End
“The serious grey eye possessed for me a strong charm” Charlotte Brontë, The Professor
“His eyes were steely grey and very solemn” John Buchan, Mr Standfast
“A thick red beard, piercing grey eyes, a nose without nostrils, and marks of the hot iron on his forehead and on his cheeks” Aleksandr Pushkin, The Daughter of the Commandant

Does this fall into the ‘poetic licence’ category along with ‘cerulean’, ‘limpid’ and ‘rheumy’? I’m all for keeping the rich variety of language alive, but not words that never get used other than in this exclusive linguistic cul-de-sac. Is ‘grey’ an exaggeration like ‘chiseled features’? Does ‘grey’ mean something else in this context? Is there some literary quality to alluding to a genre while departing from the literal?

“Glorious was his face, and his grey eyes gleamed with wrath and mastery as he spake in a clear voice” William Morris, The Well at the World’s End
“Very low forehead, very diminutive and vindictive grey eyes, somewhat Tartar features, rather flat nose, rather high cheekbones” Charlotte Brontë, The Professor
“She is delicately fair, with fine grey eyes and dark eyelashes” Jane Austen, Lady Susan
“Unfortunately, in his dark-grey eyes there was an absence of any definite idea” Ivan Goncharev, Oblomov
“Aksynia had naïve grey eyes which rarely blinked” Anton Chekhov, In the Ravine

If I read another character description with grey eyes I may sink my teeth into the e-paper.

As I ponder this important question, I notice that the examples I have are from novels at least a hundred years old. Why am I so soaked in medium-ancient literature? Because it’s in the public domain, of course, and I’m a Gutenberg glutton, or skinflint. But there may be another key feature of the hundred year old literary world: after all, they existed in monochrome, didn’t they?

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