The Theme Of Beauty In Literature Research Paper
|📌Published:||03 April 2021|
Beauty, or more specifically the loss of something beautiful, is among the leading causes of suicide in America. Romeo and Juliet is not just a tragic fictional tale, but also a terrifying reality that many people are trapped in. But why? What is it about beauty that provokes such a dramatic response from people? The true nature of beauty is an uncontrollable desire to better oneself via the possession of some attribute that society has made people believe that they cannot live without, and this can be seen in classic literature, philosophical works, and even memes.
The true nature of beauty is a desire to better oneself based on societal pressure, and this pressure often comes from advertising. In Toni Morrison’s classic novel, The Bluest Eye, the narrator reveals her experience with the pressures of advertising, generalizing phrases in magazines and shop windows as: “‘Here,’ they said, ‘this [doll] is beautiful, and if you are on this day ‘worthy’ you may have it’” (Morrison, pg. 21). This establishes the pressures of society for little girls to have this possession as a symbol of their status. It is supposedly beautiful because it betters those who have it in some indeterminate way. Everyone strives to be better, and marketing’s promise of this betterment is why the intangible force of beauty has such power over people. The narrator quickly realizes the flawed nature of beauty and is “bemused with the [doll] itself, and the way it look[s]. [...] [She is] physically revolted by and secretly frightened of those round moronic eyes, the pancake face, and orangeworms hair” (Morrison, pg. 20). Beauty is subjective, and not everyone can relate to a certain thing that is deemed beautiful, just as the narrator is not able to relate to the baby doll that is supposed to be beautiful. Beauty standards have failed in the past and will continue to fail, because no two people have the same interests.
The true nature of beauty as described above is not a recent development; the world’s greatest minds have been thinking about it for centuries, and even back then society’s impact on what was considered “beautiful” was clear as day. Greek Philosopher Plato believes that “‘wisdom is a most beautiful thing’” (Plato, ln. 43), which exemplifies society’s effect on what is perceived by people as beautiful. In Ancient Greece, knowledge and wisdom were highly valued, due to the lack of concrete scientific knowledge back then. Just like the high valuation of wisdom by Greek society caused wisdom to become beautiful to the Greeks, the high valuation of good looks by American society causes good looks to become beautiful to Americans. However the source of beauty’s power is not just society, but desire; a desire to better oneself through some asset whose value is merely determined by society. Plato explores this idea as well, writing: “‘When a man loves the beautiful, what does he desire?’ I [answer] her ‘That the beautiful may be his’” (Plato, ln. 55-57). This desire to attain “the beautiful” is what gives it such power over people. Whatever form the beauty comes in, it is always desirable to those who seek it. Because beauty is a clear driving force in the world, this idea has substantial merit to it.
It seems that one does not need to be a philosopher or author to see the true nature of beauty. A meme titled “American Beauty” perfectly qualifies the nature of beauty as a society-driven desire for betterment, depicting the Mona Lisa after a short stay in the U.S. as having breast implants, overapplied makeup, and bleached hair. These are all things that American culture convinces women they need in order to better their appearances; in other words, these are all beautiful because society said so, and society knows best. Because society has labeled these things as beautiful, there is now a publicly shared desire to have them, and so beauty’s nature must be a desire to obtain some allegedly beautiful asset. The image’s contrast with the natural and subtle beauty of the original Mona Lisa is truly eye-opening to the tragedy that is societal pressure and beauty standards.
It is in humanity’s nature to seek a higher quality of life, and people will always try to better themselves with beauty to obtain that quality. Beauty is ever-changing, and always decided by society; by people who supposedly know your best interests but really don’t know you or your many nuances at all. Beauty is the driving force behind most of what people do on a daily basis, good and bad. Robberies occur because money is beautiful, reproduction occurs because children are beautiful. Suicides occur because some people don't feel beautiful enough. Nothing is random. Everything happens for a reason, and most of the time that reason is beauty’s nature as an irresistible desire to be better.