Tag Archives: beauty

Perceptual Differences

“The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day.

But nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody even thought to swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990

Notes: Her beauty captivates them all (rope of black hair). Everyone observes her appearance, but males and females see different things (different perceptions of the same thing). She is already elevated as some exotic human “she might fall to their level someday.” This is the first big character description we read and it is told through the perspectives of other characters in the book. We are unable to subjectively see who she really is.

Stephen’s Budding Attraction to Color and Beauty

“The tablecloth was damp and limp. But he drank off the hot weak tea which the clumsy scullion, girt with a white apron, poured into his cup. He wondered whether the scullion’s apron was damp too or whether all white things were cold and damp” (pg. 10).

“White roses and red roses: those were beautiful colours to think of. And the cards for first place and second place and third place were beautiful colours too: pink and cream and lavender. Lavender and cream and pink roses were beautiful to think of. Perhaps a wild rose might be like those colours and he remembered the song about the wild rose blossoms on the little green place. But you could not have a green rose. But perhaps somewhere in the world you could” (pg. 9).

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2008. Print.

Notes: Early on in the story and at such a young age, Stephen has an affinity for artistry and beauty. While at school, he is unhappy and dreads each day; descriptions of things at school are dreary, weak, damp, wet, cold, white and grey. Within these descriptions of his days at school, there are sparks of passion flowing out of him in the form of stream of consciousness. Something so insignificant as the flowers each boy has pinned on their jackets, and the  he takes an attraction to because he loves their colors, their vibrancy. His excitement or obsession with it takes the form in repeating sentences describing the flowers and their colors, similar to the style of Getrude Stein’s Melanctha. We start to see glimpses into Stephen at a young age where he isn’t fully aware of his own passions, what he is to become.


There is one point at which the moral sense and the artistic sense lie very near together ; that is in the light of the very obvious truth that the deepest quality of a work of art will always be the quality of the mind of the producer. In proportion as that intelligence is fine will the novel, the picture, the statue partake of the substance of beauty and truth.

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction”, in Major Stories & Essays, Library of America College Editions, p592