The Perception of Beauty in Alice Walker’s "Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self"

Categories: Alice Walker
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In 1989, Alice Walker wrote the nonfiction essay, “Beauty: When the other dancer is the self”. Throughout this essay, Walker goes through a long journey of finding and accepting herself. The idea of beauty develops as the way we view yourselves. Walker is recalling her memories in present tense and how they have shaped her life, displays that beauty is more than just an external and physical concept it is the ability to feel comfortable in your own skin.

Walker begins her essay as a child describing how beautiful, confident and always happy she was.

She knows she is pretty and takes full advantage of it, especially at church. According to Walker (1989), “ I can tell they admire my dress, but it is my spirit, bordering on sassiness they secretly applaud.” (p.47). Her family and people around her say how intelligent and how pretty she is, and Walker does not doubt it. By recalling her childhood memories, we notice how vibrant and vivacious she was, she was beautiful on the outside.

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A few years later when Walker was eight years old an incident would happened that changed and impacted her life forever. The older she got the more “boyish” she became, she hung out with her brothers more often. Her parents bought her two older brothers guns, but not her. She felts as though her brothers were more superior than her because she is a girl. One day, one of her brothers shot her in the right eye with a BB gun, the pellet caused her to become blind.

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Nobody knew the extent of that incident and nobody would ever know if it was intentional or an accident. Walker and her two brothers told their parents that she got in the eye from a wire. The brothers lied so they wouldn’t get in trouble, maybe they didn’t tell the truth because the parents bought the boys gun and the parents would feel guilty knowing they bought the item that blinded their daughter. It is a mystery if the “accident” was really an accident or not, but one thing is for certain she no longer considered herself beautiful. In that moment, everything had changed for her she had lost her confidence and had to go through many hardships to try and feel like her old self again.

Walker has become blind and still had not adjusted to her new life being blind in one eye. And felt as lost as ever. Nobody understood how she felt, and how much she had changed. She began to fail school and sat with her head down, her eye caused her so much embarrassment. Being confident and pretty felt like forever ago, now all people saw was her scar and was known as the blind sad girl. When people asked what was wrong with her eye, she didn’t know what to say, all she thought about was her brother and him saying it was an “accident.” She asked her family if she had changed and they all said no, and she wondered why they all said she hadn’t changed but everything had changed for her, her self-esteem and her perspective on life had changed drastically. The feelings she had felt as a little girl going to church with her family were now gone. She wondered why did this “accident” have to happen to her why does she have to look different, all she wanted was to look beautiful like everyone else.

As a preteen, her feelings about her eye remain the same. She felt ugly and ashamed. All she wanted was for to people to look at her and not her eye. Her eye was her biggest insecurity and it is something you cannot hide. Luckily, when Walker was fourteen, she got the scar tissue removed, she started to feel beautiful and regain her confidence back, had a new outlook on beauty. Again, her family said she had not changed, but how can they not see it? She had changed, changed for the better because of the surgery she felt so much more like her past self. She had started to discover her beauty by having her insecurity become accepted.

Nearly two decades after the “accident” when she was twenty-seven, she became a mother. She worried that her daughter, Rebecca, would be embarrassed of her mother’s eye. Until one day her daughter made a comment about her eye. “ Looking every bit as serious and lawyerlike as her father… ‘Mommy, there’s a world in your eye.’ ” and in that moment she had realized there was in fact a world in her eye, all the experiences, good and bad are shown with her eyes and have made her who she is a person. All sense of anger, embarrassment, and feeling ugly had disappeared. Walker states (1989), “ She is beautiful, whole and free. And she is also me” (p.52). In that moment, she had finally accepted herself, and made peace with her beauty. She turned her “accident” into her perception of beauty. Accepting yourself can be a long hard journey, and Walker proves that she once you see past the outer self it is a lot easier to accept your beauty and you ultimately realize that inner beauty is just as if not more important than physical beauty.

In Alice Walker’s nonfiction essay it can be seen that she defied beauty standards by accepting her beauty. She learned to be happy with her appearance which overall made her carry herself with confidence and grace. Walker’s struggles and achievements prove that beauty comes from within and is about accepting your insecurities and turning them into something positive. Your beauty is all how you interpret it and discovering yourself in the process.

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The Perception of Beauty in Alice Walker’s "Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self". (2021, Aug 06). Retrieved from

The Perception of Beauty in Alice Walker’s "Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self"

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