“Beauty: When The Other Dancer Is The Self”: Summary of Alice Walker's Autobiographical Essay
In "“Beauty: When The Other Dancer Is The Self” Summary" we will talk about the themes and analyze the main character of this essay. The essay “Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self,” describes the life of the author, Alice Walker. When she was a young, Walker believed herself to be a beautiful girl. At a young age, she was outside playing with her brother one day when he shot her in the eye with a BB gun. Her eye is scared with white scar tissue and blinded from the pellet. Her personality begins to change significantly, and she instead lowers her head to others, so they don’t look at her eye. She is also often bullied at school for it. Many years pass after until she is fourteen, and she has the scar tissue removed from her eye. After the tissue is removed, she starts to look up again and her personality goes back to the way as it was when she was younger; proud and bright. Thirty years after the event, she is called to do an interview on her latest book. She soon starts to remember and become self-conscious about her eye. Until her husband reminds her that she has already made amends with it. Most importantly, at the age of twenty-seven, she has a talk with her daughter about the eye. Her daughter states that she has “A world” in it. Then Alice Walker came to realize that she loved the scar on her eye. It was after this, that she truly excepted it and herself.
Throughout the entire essay, there are many key aspects that stick out to the reader. The first being that Walker believing she was very beautiful when she was young. How she cherished that beauty and how it defined her character. The second, and arguably the biggest part of the essay, was the fact she was shot in her eye. This key event set up the remainder of the essay and the story told within it. The third being how she grew up with her deformed eye. Now that the eye was bruised and broken, many people looked at her differently. She was harassed and bullied by her peers. This stood out to me because when she was without the deformity, she was a gorgeous girl. The forth was when she got the lump removed from her eye. When the lump was removed, Walker was looked at like she was when she was younger; beautiful. I believe that it was because of this, Walker thought for a while that she was ugly, and it was her eye that was the cause of it.
Lastly, Walker came to the realization that she was never ugly in the first place. A three years old, Walker’s daughter says to her “Mommy, there's a world in your eye." And then, gently, but with great interest: "Mommy, where did you get that world in your eye?””. Think this is what made Walker finally realize her eye was never ugly. That it was only ever other people who were making her think that way. There are many patterns scattered around the essay. Two things that repeat exactly are the words “I remember” and the saying, “I am *blank* years old”. It’s possible that she used both of these devices to show the audience that she knew exact key points in her life that influenced her ideas of beauty. A few key strands that are repeated are her concepts of beauty and her personal feelings. These connect to one another because based on how Walker felt about herself, she thought it reflected her beauty. For intense, when her eye was deformed, her personal feelings looked down upon herself. When it wasn’t, her feelings were happy. Some binaries I noticed in the essay were the concepts of beauty with ugliness and blindness with sight. Both of these binaries are important because the show the conflicting feels of the author and how these feels shaped the way she wrote her essay.
Now, even though all of these aspects are Important, I think that three of them are more important than the rest and shine above the others. The first being the concepts of beauty. Beauty is no doubt the main focus of this essay, with it also being in the title. However, the way Walker talks about how her ideas of what beauty is when she was young and old was very important. That leads right into my second aspect, the contradictions of beauty and ugliness. Walker’s ideas of what each of these are changed in her years, showing that even though it affected her at one point, it doesn’t anymore. Lastly, the key words of her saying “I remember”. I believe that her simply saying “I remember” shows how much she payed to detail in her life, remembering all the important moments that played out. Along with Walker stating some things that are rather obvious to the audience, there are a few things she writes that aren’t as obvious. The first one being that she hated her eye. Her eye is the whole reason she even though she was ugly in the first place. I believe her abnormality of the eye and what it did to her caused her to hate it. The second one being the idea that that she changed. All around the essay, we are seen Alice asking her friends and family questions about her to they all respond, “You did not change.” I believe that she said these lines specifically and no other because she wanted to emphasize how she believed her accident caused her to change. The last implicit thought being that Walker hate an anger for both guns, real and fake, A BB gun is what cost her eye. Towards the end of her essay, walker typed “So what, if my brothers grew up to buy even more powerful pellet guns for their sons and to carry real guns themselves.” This was around the time she finally came to appreciate her eye.
I believe that up until that moment, walker hated guns for what they could do and the violence they could cause. Now, after the reader is done, there could be many possible interpretations of what we are led to believe. The very first being one imperfection does not define you. Alice’s beauty standards of what she thought was beautiful and ugly was built upon one singular imperfection: her eye. If the accident never happened, her belief of her being ugly never would have came up. My second possible interpretation would be. The second possible interpretation is to not worry about what you look like. This could work because all through the text, many people tell her that she did not change.
This could be a clear indication to tell the audience and Walker to not worry about appearance. However, there is one interpretation that I think is more plausible than the others. My interpretation is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Throughout this essay, I used the five analytical moves to narrow down my investigation. First, summarizing the events of the essay. Then, finding out some significant parts of it. For example, her eye being shot and her growing up with a deformed eye and her realization much later from the words of her daughter. Thirdly, her conflicting views of beauty with the bullies and people around her, along with the memories of the past with the saying “I remember”.
Finally, some of the implicit views from her essay, and me being able to look below the surface to make those implicit ideas, explicit. While I have finished the essay, I do have one question still in mind. When Walker was being bullied at a young age and become upset from it, did her friends or family ever come to help her? She never says that in the essay, but only asks her family if she looks any different before. Walker never discusses being comforted by anybody close to her. Maybe it was only a small detail, but it defiantly caught my eye. With all of these thoughts in mind, I have come to the final conclusion that the essay is saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.