Tag Archives: beauty

The Irony of Beauty in A Small Place

After rereading A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid, I have noticed the irony of beauty. We all know the difference between inner and outer beauty. For example, there could be a gorgeous model who is really an awful person on the inside. Her outer beauty is incongruent with her inner bitterness. I think it is interesting that this can apply to not only people, but places. Antigua is a gorgeous place to a tourist who is ignorant to real life on the island. However, through the eyes of a native, the reader learns the truth behind the beauty of the island.

Perhaps the most obvious example of the ugliness of Antiguan beauty is the gorgeous water that surrounds it. Kincaid warns, “the contents of your lavatory might, just might, graze gently against your ankle as you wade carefree in the water, for you see, in Antigua, there is no proper sewage-disposal system” (14). Also, many of the people in Antigua drive luxurious cars, which is nice to think of until the reader learns that the government has corrupted the car market in Antigua, making them the only cars available to people. They may drive theses gorgeous cars but, “the person driving this brand-new car… is far beneath the status of the car” (7). They have below average living conditions, but the reader would never realize that by looking at the quality of their cars.

Antigua has many things that are beautiful to look at. However Kincaid reveals their inner beauty, which is exactly the opposite of what the reader would expect.

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Commercial Asset

Murakami conveys her opposition toward commercialism in After Dark with her portrayal of Eri Asai, and her fall into a dark, lonely, and entrapping alternative universe. The room Eri gets sucked into acts as a symbol for her own inner turmoil as an objectified young woman, victimized by the shallow institution of commercialism. The grim narrative elucidates Murakami’s disdain for the industry and its effect on women.

When Eri awakes in this alternate universe, she immediately “verifies that she is her usual self: a beautiful face and well-shaped breasts. I’m a lump of flesh, a commercial asset” (Murakami 110). This indicates how sadly conscious Eri is of what defines who she is: these transitory and superficial traits. One of the most indicative statements of Eri’s desolation comes from Meri when she says “Pills and fortune telling and dieting: nobody can stop her when it comes to any of those things” (Murakami 119). Her drug abuse and obsession with fortune-telling indicates how damaged Eri is, and how she is trying desperately to fill a void. How she seeks to fill this void is how countless young women try to, by becoming these glossy photographs that have the power to draw in masses, an obsession which serves as the foundation for commercialism. What commercialism cannot seem to sell to these young women is depth. When Eri is first seen in the novel, her room is described to have only a few things, including large magazines, and “as the room’s only decorative touch, five photographs in small frames are lined up on a shelf, all of them photos of Eri Asai. She is is alone in all of them” (Murakami 26). This immediately implies that she is superficial and self-centered. When Eri is sleeping, she is described to be completely beautiful and motionless, as if she were a mannequin. Eri’s vacuity is clear from the fact that she is never given a voice in the novel except for when she is in the alternative universe, and instead she is only talked about and talked for.

Just as how a television has sucked Eri in, media continuously sucks young girls into living a vacuous lifestyle for their capital gain. With her Prada bag, magazine shoots, and “natural radiance”, it is clear that Eri is beautiful, glamourous, and loved in this reality, but in the alternative reality that functions as her inner turmoil, she is alone in this inescapable realm of commercialism (Murakami 194). From this vindictive symbolism, Murakami presents her abhorrece for an industry that manipulates young women for financial gain, as well as its influence on society to alienate bright women like Meri.

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