The protagonist of the Emily trilogy, Emily Byrd Starr is 10 years old when Emily of New Moon begins. Orphaned after the death of her father, Douglas Starr, Emily is taken by her aunts Elizabeth Murray and Laura Murray to live at New Moon farm, where she befriends Ilse Burnley, Teddy Kent, Perry Miller.
Emily is black of hair and violet-gray of eye. She is named for her paternal grandmother, Emily Byrd, whom she resembles physically. She is tall and slender, with pointed chin and "elf" ears, and dainty ankles. She is famous for her slow-blossoming smile.
Emily possesses the burning ambition to be a writer, a struggle which becomes the theme of the novels. L. M. Montgomery indicates that Emily is the most autobiographical of her heroines.
Emily inherits from her maternal grandmother, a highland Scottish woman, "the second sight." She has three "psychic" encounters throughout the stories.
Emily also experiences "the flash", a mystical sensation of inspiration in which she delights. Her imaginative powers stretch to "seeing wallpapers in the air", and to the companionship of her imaginary friends, her own reflection "Emily-in-the-glass", and "The Wind Woman."
Here is a description of Emily in Emily's Quest:
"Those of you who have already followed Emily through her years of New Moon and Shrewsbury* must have a tolerable notion what she looked like. For those of you to whom she comes as a stranger let me draw a portrait of her as she seemed to the outward eye at the enchanted portal of seventeen, walking where the golden chrysanthemums lighted up an old autumnal, maritime garden...'
"A slender, virginal young thing. Hair like black silk. Purplish-grey eyes, with violet shadows under them that always seemed darker and more alluring after Emily had sat up to some unholy and un-Elizabethan hour completing a story or working out the skeleton of a plot; scarlet lips with a Murray-like crease at the corners; ears with Puckish, slightly pointed tips. Perhaps it was the crease and the ears that made certain people think her something of a puss. An exquisite line of chin and neck; a smile with a trick in it; such a slow-blossoming thing with a sudden radiance of fulfilment. And ankles that scandalous old Aunt Nancy Priest of Priest Pond commended. Faint stains of rose in her rounded cheeks that sometimes suddenly deepened to crimson. Very little could bring that transforming flush--a wind off the sea, a sudden glimpse of blue upland, a flame-red poppy, white sails going out of the harbour in the magic of morning, gulf-waters silver under the moon, a Wedgwood-blue columbine in the old orchard. Or a certain whistle in Lofty John's bush.' "With all this--pretty? I cannot tell you. Emily was never mentioned when Blair Water beauties were being tabulated. But no one who looked upon her face ever forgot it. No one, meeting Emily the second time ever had to say "Er--your face seems familiar but--" Generations of lovely women were behind her. They had all given her something of personality. She had the grace of running water. Something, too, of its sparkle and limpidity. A thought swayed her like a strong wind. An emotion shook her as a tempest shakes a rose. She was one of those vital creatures of whom, when they do die, we say it seems impossible that they can be dead. Against the background of her practical, sensible clan she shone like a diamond flame. Many people liked her, many disliked her. No one was ever wholly indifferent to her."
Emily's best friend Ilse Burnley writes to her: "There are times I envy you fiercely, Emily--your New Moon quiet and peace and leisure--your intense absorption and satisfaction in your work-- your singleness of purpose. You always remind me-- always did remind me, even in our old chummy days--of somebody's line--'her soul was like a star and dwelt apart.'"