Beauty vs. Ugliness: Early Myths and Classic Fairytales
In his novel of the retold myth Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis takes the roles of beauty and ugliness from fairytales and myths and not only emulates but confutes them. Traditionally the role of beauty is a symbol of good in classic fairytales and ugliness is symbolic of evil. The myth in the novel both proves and disproves this mainstream idea throughout the novel. Lewis creatively integrates a more relatable story by showing the flaw in the assumption that pretty is acceptable and appalling is considered evil.
Orual, the protagonist of the story narrates for the first time she is ugly in chapter one when she thinks, “that was the first time I truly understood that I am ugly,” (Lewis 11) after her dad insulted her. Orual had some unattractive qualities in her making her outward appearance of ugliness apparent. She is possessive when it comes to the people around her and her distorted idea of love makes it hard for people to love her without anger or resentment at some point. The manipulative ways of her personality confine herself to her mind, drowning herself in her appalling thoughts and selfish actions. That is the “normal” idea of an ugly person in a fairytale.
The novel becomes surreal when Lewis develops the story in a twisting way. Lewis turned the table on Orual’s association with ugliness when she becomes queen. The once monstrous person is humanized by showing her better qualities as a capable queen. The now entitled queen is given beauty when she is veiled, “her veil hid the face of a pretty woman” (223). Now only judged for her actions, kind and wise, she is considered beautiful by fairytale standards. The author pulled off character development in a new way making a person both good and bad in a somewhat relatable way. Using Orual’s point of view, the reader can understand her feelings, showing her beauty, her ugliness, on the inside, and on the outside. This reflects the...
Cited: Lewis, C.S. Till We Have Faces, Orlando: Harcourt, 1984, Print
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