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Bess

Symbol Analysis

She's our heroine, the other half of the pair with the highwayman. The poem basically orbits around this good-looking young couple. The speaker is really careful to point out that she's pretty. Well, more than that, he really focuses on certain aspects of her appearance, just like he did with the highwayman. We don't get to know that much about her, except that she's loyal and brave, but we get a lot of strong, lasting images of her body.

  • Line 17: At this first secret meeting between Bess and the highwayman, we learn that she is the landlord's daughter, that her name is Bess, and that she has long black hair. This isn't a lot of information, but in a way, it's all we need to know. The scene has been so carefully set up that we don't need a dissertation about either of these characters. A few details are enough for us to put together a picture.
  • Line 56: Here's where Bess starts to show us how courageous she is. She struggles and fights until she can carry out her plan. She's not willing to remain passive. Again, the images are really sharp and well-defined. We can almost feel her hands twisting and slipping around inside the ropes.