Alice Walker’s “Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self” is a personal narrative in which the author reflects upon her traumatic experience of being shot in the eye with a BB gun as a child. Using literary devices, Walker brings to life the story of her struggle to cope with her deformity. In this narrative essay, Walker portrays the difficulty and the importance of self-acceptance.
Walker distinctly shows a change in her self confidence in which sets the story of her struggle to deal with her disfigured eye.
As a child Walker was a very outgoing, confident young lady. However, after the accident Walker loses all confidence, “now when I stare at people—a favorite pass time, up to now—they will stare back. Not at the “cute” little girl, but at her scar” (Walker3). Walker’s extreme concern to be beautiful as a child made her experience even more overwhelming. The fear, lack of confidence, and influence of others throughout the narrative brought about the constant question of whether or not she differed from before the accident.
Walker felt as if she were falling apart. Later in Walkers life she published a book. When talking to a famous journalist, “My eye won’t be straight” for the cover photo was all Walker could think of (Walker 5). Even when presented with an opportunity like none other Walker could not accept herself. She feared everyone’s opinion and did not see the beauty that laid within her. This shows that not having self-confidence may lead to missing out on great opportunities.
The structure of the narrative helps clarify that this traumatic experience affected her throughout her entire life. The reader is able to realize this by Walker’s use of transitions throughout the essay. Each event is introduced by Walker’s age (or hint to her age) at which the event occurred. This technique exemplifies that throughout her life there was constant internal conflict about her looks. The turning point in Walkers battle with self-acceptance is when the reader is introduced to her three year old daughter. The adolescent innocence generally creates a sense of self-acceptance for a mother however, in Walker’s case it created more fear “will she be embarrassed?”(Walker7). Walker became accustomed to belittling herself and expecting to be judged so much so that she even feared to look at her child. When Walker catches her daughter staring off into her eye she panics, “something inside me cringes, gets ready to protect myself” (Walker7).
The fear of being judged comes back. However a glimpse of self-acceptance can be seen when her daughter ask, “Mommy, where did you get that world in your eye” (Walker 7). It was at that moment that Walker realized that she did not “change” from the accident. Walker’s views on everything began to brighten. Her confidence came back as she learned accept herself for who she really is. In the conclusion of this novel she finds herself in a dream in which she loves herself as she did as an adolescence. To be brief Alice Walker reveals the struggles and importance of being able to accept yourself as you are. Walker fought a battle with beauty for years. She tore herself apart but then showed readers that the strength of self-acceptance was strong enough to build her back up. Although the fear and negative influences embody her traumatic experience Walker finds the strength in her to accept herself as she did once before. This empowering essay stresses the importance of one’s own needs to accept themselves.
Walker, Alice. “Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self.” WRT101, Moodle. 11 Sep 2014. PDF.