Beauty is an important aspect in many societies. Many people are conscious of how they look. The reality is evident even in medieval communities, where people used to put marks on their bodies to enhance their physical appearances. In contemporary society, obsession with beauty and physical appearance is manifested in the range of cosmetic products used by people on a daily basis. Many individuals are also undergoing cosmetic surgery to improve their looks.
Literature, together with other words of art, is used to express societal dynamics at a given time. To this end, a number of writings have addressed the theme of beauty and other related issues in the society. One of them is the play “Beauty” by Jane Martin. The issue of beauty and the various perspectives revolving around it constitute the main theme of the drama.
The two main characters (Carla and Bethany) hold conflicting views on the issue of beauty. Although both characters believe in physical appeal, their viewpoints on what is (and what defines) beauty are contradicting. The varying perspectives elicit a lot of interest among the audience.
In this argumentative essay, the author is going to look at the element of beauty in the play by Martin. A critical analysis of the play reveals that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Other people and agents may provide varying definitions of this concept. However, the perspective of the ‘beholder’ carries more weight.
Beauty Lies in the Eye of the Beholder
An objective analysis of the arguments made by Bethany and Carla reveals that the person perceiving beauty is the major determinant of the definitions and meanings attached to this concept. For instance, Bethany tells Carla that she wants to be like her. She is convinced that Carla is beautiful (Kirszner and Mandell 542). To her, Carla is the epitome of beauty. Bethany defines Carla’s good looks from the perspective of physical appearances and the attraction she elicits from people (Kirszner and Mandell 542).
On her part, Carla holds a different opinion with regards to the definition of beauty in relation to Bethany. She believes that Bethany is better off due to her brains, good job, and other successful ventures (Kirszner and Mandell 542). It is a fact that Carla is more physically attractive compared to Bethany. However, her viewpoint on beauty goes beyond physical appearances. Her definition incorporates intellectual capacity, which Bethany possesses. Bethany does not regard this attribute as part of beauty.
The issue of who defines beauty is emphasized on in the play. According to Sekayi (469), it is hard to express what physical appeal is. However, one can recognize beauty by seeing or experiencing it. Rhodes (201) postulates that this concept is traditionally projected as a component of ultimate values, including justice, truth, and ‘goodness’. The varying perspectives of beauty indicate lack of a standard definition (Leang, Vermeer and Sulutvedt 9).
The perspective of beauty adopted by Martin in the play highlights the conflicting viewpoints held by different people in relation to this element. Each and every individual customizes beauty to suit their desires. For instance, Bethany is quick to point out that ‘…millions upon millions of people are longing hopelessly to stop being whatever they are and be beautiful…’ (Kirszner and Mandell p. 543).
Such people believe that they are not physically appealing. Perhaps this is because they cannot see themselves in full to ‘behold’ their beauty. They tend to appreciate the characteristics of other people more than they do theirs.
The viewpoints revealed through the arguments made by Carla and Bethany show that beauty ‘belongs’ to the eye of the beholder. It cannot (and should not) be defined by the media or any other influential forces, such as the perceptions of members of the public. Beauty should remain ‘in’ the eye of the beholder. The reason is that reaching a common agreement on the issue is unrealistic.
The dangers associated with mainstream perspectives on beauty are made apparent by Martin in this play. Carla and Bethany get what they think is beautiful. However, they are dissatisfied since none of them wanted to be like the other (Kirszner and Mandell 543). The two ladies realize what they had overlooked in their definition of beauty. They failed to appreciate the fact that everyone is beautiful in their own special ways.
In “Beauty”, Martin offers the reader some very important advice. People should not undermine their strengths in the quest for what they do not have. On the contrary, they should be proud of the qualities they have. They should utilize their strengths to the maximum. Carla and Bethany appreciate their strengths only after losing them. In light of this, one can argue that beauty can be viewed from one perspective, where everybody is regarded as beautiful in their own unique ways.
Beauty is a product of personal idiosyncrasies and cultural values, both of which are arbitrary. The general perception of beauty as lying in the eyes of the beholder concurs with Martin’s viewpoint, which is revealed in the arguments between the two main characters. It is difficult to reach a consensus with regards to the definition of the concept. The reason is that to some extent, everyone is ignoring their individual biases.
Kirszner, Laurie, and Stephen Mandell. LIT. 1st ed. 2011. New York: Cengage Learning. Print.
Leang, Bruno, Oddrun Vermeer and Unni Sulutvedt. “Is Beauty in the Face of the Beholder?.” PLoS ONE 8.7 (2013): 1-11. Print.
Rhodes, Gillian. “The Evolutionary Psychology of Facial Beauty.” Annual Review of Psychology 57 (2006): 199-226. Print.
Sekayi, Dia. “Aesthetic Resistance to Commercial Influences: The Impact of the Eurocentric Beauty Standard on Black College Women.” Journal of Negro Education 72.4 (2003): 467-477. Print.