A Comparison and Contrast of Ideas of Beauty

Category: Beauty
Last Updated: 12 Mar 2023
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It has often been said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This may well be true, but many people, particularly women, have trouble seeing their own beauty, especially when they do not look just like everyone else.

The three short stories that were assigned, “Beauty: When The Other Dancer Is The Self,” by Alice Walker, “Mirrors,” by Lucy Grealy, and “The Story of My Body,” by Judith Ortiz Cofer, all share the same premise. In each story, each young woman is faced with trials due to the way they look. The way that they choose to deal with these trials, however, is different for each one.

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“Beauty: When The Other Dancer Is The Self” is the story of Alice Walker’s life as a child. She thrived on being considered cute and “sassy.” At one point in the story, she even mentions that she was fond of staring at people, just so they would notice her and how beautiful she was. Unfortunately, all that changed when she was accidently shot in the eye with a BB pellet.

She lost sight in that eye, and the eye formed a large white cataract that people would stare at and comment on. Walker refused to look anyone in the eye for years. She became extremely uncomfortable with the idea that she was no longer beautiful in the traditional sense, and her social and scholastic abilities suffered for it. When she was older, she had the chance to have the cataract removed, and nothing but a blue scar remained.

This did wonders for her confidence, until she had a child of her own. She worried about what the child might think of her blind eye, but a television show featuring a blue globe gave the child the idea that her mother had a world in her eye. To the child, this was a wonderful thing. Walker, gaining acceptance from her child, was able to finally accept herself.

“Mirrors,” by Lucy Grealy, is the story of the author’s battle with cancer of the jaw and the disfiguration it caused. Grealy was young when she had to have part of her jaw removed, so along with the normal trials of growing up, she was forced to deal with the pain of chemotherapy and the stares and taunts of insensitive children and adults.

When the reconstruction of her face failed time after time, she gave up looking into mirrors. In fact, she avoided any shiny surface. She stayed in the library most of the time, reading books about the Holocaust and other dreadful times in history to make her pain seem less significant. When she finally had a chance to have work done on her face overseas, she jumped at the chance.

She seemed to think that having a “perfect” face would solve all of her problems. Instead, the surgeries caused new problems. She had to have work done on the healthy side of her face to make a match, and she ended up looking nothing like what she thought she would. Not being able to reconcile with her new face, she ignored mirrors for a whole year. However, at the end of her story, she encountered a man who made her feel good about herself. Finally, she had the acceptance she needed to peak at her reflection in a window.

“The Story of my Body,” by Judith Ortiz Cofer, tells the tale of what is was like for the young Cofer to grow up Puerto Rican. In her own society she was considered light skinned and tall. When she moved to the United States, she was considered dark and short. This instant change in the way people perceived her was very hard for the child to take.

She got to the point where she no longer wanted to look at herself. She was an outcast at school, so much so that her parents had to send her to live with her grandparents in order to attend a different school. Unfortunately, things weren’t much better for her there. She was bone-thin at the age where most teenagers start to blossom.

She was also considered “dirty” by white people, and was unable to date the boy she loved because his parents would not allow him to date a “dark” girl. However, Cofer excelled in school. It was the one thing that she could do right. When her good grades got her into college, she was in a different world where people found her “exotic” and beautiful. Being accepted came, oddly enough, by being different.

These three stories have much in common. For instance, all three women gave up looking at themselves for various amounts of time. Being told that they were “ugly” and “dirty” took a toll on each one’s self esteem. Each woman had a physical problem. Walker had a discolored, blind eye, Grealy had a terribly disfigured face, and Cofer, along with being the exact opposite of the standards for beauty, had chicken pox scars all over her face.

All of these reasons, although they vary in severity, were more than enough reason to make a young woman want to hang her head. No one ever said that the teenage and young adult years were easy, anyway. Perhaps the most important thing that they all had in common was the need for something to better their perceptions of themselves. For Walker, it was her child. Once she had acceptance from her little one, she was free to face the world.

For Grealy, it was having lunch with a man who did not seem disgusted or turned off by her deformities. His attitude towards her was enough to make her want to see what he saw in her. For Cofer, it was excelling in school and making it to college. There she found people who didn’t care if she was different, and some that actually seemed to like her better because she was different. She could finally think of herself as pretty again.

The stories also have some contrasting themes. The types of suffering experienced by the women were vastly different. Although one can emphasize with Cofer over being picked last in gym and looking different, her suffering was much less than Grealy’s loss of a portion of her face or Walker’s loss of sight. The way that each woman overcame her difficulties is also different. Cofer used her smarts and her mental ability to rise above those who tortured her. Walker was partially freed by having her cataract removed in order to look more “normal.”

However, Grealy turned her back on her femininity for a while and withdrew into books, not wanting to accept the fact that she lived in the real world. She was perked up by the man mentioned above, but she fell into a sad life of drug addiction and eventual suicide. This is perhaps the largest contrast. While Walker and Cofer found their beauty, Grealy apparently never did.

In conclusion, these three stories have a lot to teach us about our reaction to suffering. We should not hide ourselves away from the world because of our problems, but neither should we cause other people to want to hide away because of our stares and comments. Beauty is subjective. Magazines and movies would have us believe that only one kind of beauty is acceptable, but that is not the case.

People who rise from adversity are often left with beautiful souls, and that is what we should look for in a person. All these women mentioned were beautiful because they persevered, and it is a shame that Grealy could not come to see herself in that light. If nothing else, these stories should show the reader that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and we should never do or say anything to steal another person’s beauty from them.

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A Comparison and Contrast of Ideas of Beauty. (2016, Jun 27). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-comparison-and-contrast-of-ideas-of-beauty/

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