Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self by Alice Walker

Intention: The intention of this essay is to show that we are often our harshest critics when it comes to beauty and we often let that affect our outlook on our lives.

The intention of this piece is also to tell of her childhood experience with beauty, and how she came to feel beautiful after her accident.  This essay moves through Walker’s life and exposes her journey and struggles she has faced when it comes to beauty.

Arrangement: Walker arranged this essay so that it follows the narrative of her life. Each section is dedicated to a significant time she encountered the idea of being beautiful and how it affected her. First, she described a time when being “cute” earned her father’s adoration. As she continues to describe her life, she begins to describe how not being beautiful enough made her insecure. Finally, she ends the essay by explaining how she has come to terms with being her own kind of beautiful and is no longer letting it affect other aspects of her life, such asher schoolwork, like she had before. This arrangement allows the audience to grow and learn along with Walker so that they can better understand her argument and intention for writing.

Pathos: Walker uses multiple examples of pathos in this essay to engage with the audience. The most effective examples of pathos are when Walker is describing how badly she was treated because of the way her eye looked. The first time the audience sees this is when Walker describes the teasing she used to endure at school. Later, she describes how, at the time of the incident, a white man would not take her to the hospital with her father. She even talks about the neglect she felt from her own father after the incident because he never again chose her for the fair over her brothers, the highest symbol of honor in their family. This use of pathos engages the audience in a very intimate way so that they can deeper understand Walker’s life as they follow her narrative.

Quote: A quote that stood out to me was, “She is beautiful, whole, and free. And she is also me.” In this quote, Walker is referring to the “other dancer” that she encounters in the last paragraph of the essay. However, the audience now understands that the other dancer is actually just a reflection of herself and the new, positive way she views herself. This new version of Walker only surface once she gained a new perspective on her eye. She began to see her imperfection as her daughter does –as beautiful– and therefore became “beautiful and free.”

-Grace Dearing


Pathos:  A great deal of pathos is present after Walker’s accident occurred.  She tells her audience, “That night, as I do almost every night, I abuse my eye.  I rant and rave at it, in front of the mirror,” (766).  This quote gives insight on how unhappy Walker is with how she looks, which causes the audience to sympathize with her.  Everybody can relate to being dissatisfied with some aspect of their body at one time or another, and therefore can understand what Walker is struggling with.  Walker continues on to say, “I do not pray for sight.  I pray for beauty,” (766).  She is indirectly calling herself ugly in this quote.  This causes the audience to feel sorry for her and sorry that the accident took away her confidence in herself.  At the end of the essay, Walker evokes a positive emotion from her audience after mentioning that her daughter said there was a world in her eye.  She tells the reader, “And I saw that it was possible to love it: that in fact, for all it had taught me of shame and anger and inner vision, I did love it,” (769).  The mood in the essay is changed at this point, and the audience is pleased and happy that Walker has learned to love her imperfections.

Quote:  “I do not pray for sight.  I pray for beauty,” (766).  This quote stuck out the most to me out of this entire essay.  I found it extremely sad that Walker was more worried about a trivial matter, beauty, than an important matter, sight.  She places beauty above being able to see, which does not seem right.  This quote reveals the grip that beauty has over people.  Girls feel the pressures to look good and to be beautiful, and often forget about more important aspects of life.  Walker felt that people viewed her differently now that she was flawed.  Nobody wants to feel insecure or ugly, but it is important to remember that flaws do not change how genuine friends think of you.  This quote supports the intention of the piece.  Walker reveals the struggle that she was feeling because of the scar tissue on her eye.  She did not feel good about her appearance after the accident, and this quote reveals just how gravely the accident affected her.  To pray for beauty instead of the necessity of sight lets the audience know how insecure Walker was about herself.

Audience:  Walker’s essay has a wide audience.  Almost every person can relate to her story of not feeling beautiful at times.  Although people may not relate to Walker’s exact struggle with her damaged eye, they can recall some aspect of their own outward appearance that they have been insecure about before.  Everybody has struggled with body image at some point.  Walker’s story reveals the insecurities that her readers may have felt at one time or another in their own lives.  The language of the essay is simple and informal, again contributing to the wide audience.  Her essay is easy to read and to understand; a higher education or degree is not needed in order to be able to interpret and enjoy this essay.  Walker wrote this essay in the form of miniature stories, which appeals to her audience.  People enjoy reading stories and hearing about other people’s lives.  The global topic of beauty, simplistic language, and miniature stories all contribute to the large audience that Walker’s essay possesses.

–Vanessa Petranek

Style: Walker has a very personal style with the audience by starting off the essay immediately with an anecdote. In doing so, she sets the reader up with setting and some backstory so that the audience can better understand her intention. She even gives specific days/years throughout the essay in order to use the setting to help tell her story.

Ethos: Walker shows her ethos by discussing beauty standards because she was in an accident that caused her to have a physical deformity. The essay would have been totally different if it would of been from a Beauty Pageant Queen with a campaign to change the beauty standard. Walker is real in her essay because her personal beauty is challenged with something she couldn’t control and she chooses the way in which to react to it. This cause/effect scenario gives her credibility and an eager audience to hear her perspective.

Quote: “Since her birth I have worried about her discovery that her mother’s eyes are different from other people’s. Will she be embarrassed?” I love this quote because it shows that even though she has all these strong opinions about beauty she still has doubts. It is easy to have an opinion but difficult to be steadfast and confident in your opinions. This is not weakness, but this is human. To me, this quote  took Walker off the pedestal of a published author and made her relatable to me.

–Mackenzie Coon

Delivery: Walker delivers her intention to her audience through a written anecdote, which allows for her to describe her childhood memories with enough personal details to evoke pathos in her audience and to give herself ethos since she herself  lived through the injury and struggle with beauty described in the anecdote. Walker spaces each larger text section to show a transition in time in each new section.

Quote: The repetition of the quote, “‘You did not change’, they said.” really stood out to me because it highlighted how struggling with self-consciousness  can often change people in ways that are often invisible or unnoticeable to others. The repetition really emphasized just how often her internal struggles with self-image weren’t seen by her family over the years.

Ethos: Walker already provides herself ethos through using a personal anecdote to make herself a reliable source. But she also holds ethos as a famous author in general, especially if the audience knows about novels she’s written. Walker has addressed the subject of beauty and self-worth in multiple books she has written, which further establishes that she has an understanding of the subject. One well-known example is Walker’s novel The Color Purple, in which the main character Celie struggles with being able to consider herself beautiful throughout the majority of the novel due to domestic abuse.

– Mira Bauer




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