The Wound in the Face by Angela Carter

Intention: Carter’s intention in this essay is to bring attention to the “wounds” that are deeply imbedded in the culture of women’s beauty. She describes makeup trends throughout history, and uses a mouth with red lipstick as a symbol of the wounds inflicted on women, while bringing into question the sense of security of women.

-When describing makeup trends in the sixties, Carter says, “But it was just that, after all those years of pancake makeup, people had forgotten what the real colour of female skin was.” This quote goes towards Carter’s intention and is very effective point because it provides the audience with imagery. It’s easy to envision how a woman looks with pounds on makeup compared to how she looks without any. This image sticks in the minds of the audience and reminds them of the unrealistic standards of beauty women are expected to measure up to, which is one of the biggest wounds in our culture that Carter is addressing.

-Carter builds up credibility with her audience by appealing to ethos throughout the essay. She proves that she has done her research on the topic of women’s beauty by describing different makeup trends throughout history. One example of when Carter appeals to ethos is when describes the makeup trends in the sixties by saying, “When the sixties face used cosmetics at all, it explored imports such as kohl and henna from Indian shops. These had the twin advantages of being extremely exotic and very, very cheap.” This convinces the audience to trust Carter and her point of view because she is so knowledgeable on this subject.

-One of the most effective quotes in the essay reads, “Black paint around the eyes is such a familiar convention it seems natural; so does red paint on the mouth. We are so used to the bright red mouth we no longer see it as the wound it mimics, except in the treacherous lucidity of paranoia.” This quote goes towards Carter’s intention of bringing to attention the wounds that are imbedded in the culture of women’s beauty. It’s saying that people have become so used to seeing women with a full face of makeup that they expect every woman to always be wearing it. She compares red lipstick to a wound because it is a symbol of the unrealistic expectations placed on women to be “perfect” and “presentable” all the time.

— Kayla Gay

Pathos: Carter uses appeals to the audience’s feelings by describing her, “unnerving experience because all the models appeared to be staring straight at me with such a heavy, static quality of  being there.” We feel the sense of burden upon the models to look perfect and the toll it places on them.  She continues, “How rarely women look another in the eye. Only two of the faces wear anything like smiles.”  The emptiness described of the models trying to fill the expectations set for them is almost tangible from these words.

Rhetorical question: In this piece, Carter uses several rhetorical questions to put readers in her shoes and deeper question if striving to look perfect is worth it.  She asks things like, “Might- ah, might- it be possible to use cosmetics to free women from the burden of having to look beautiful altogether?” and, “Because there is not much to smile about this season?” Questions such as these have a resounding effect as readers move through the piece and search for answers. Key words such as might, because, yet, or but, introduce these questions with force and trigger more questions to consider what could help women feel more secure besides makeup.

Simile: Carter compares several things in the essay to others to emphasize larger effects they create. For example, she describes,”lipstick traces on a cigarette stub; the perfect imprint, like half a heart, of a scarlet lower lip drained on a Martini glass; the tell-tale scarlet letter.” This amazingly detailed imagery compares a lipstick stain to a heart and a scarlet letter. By giving the makeup a physical symbol, the heart, and by comparing it to a scarlet letter, an emotional representation of a sin or fault,  the reader can envision the stain in shape and in meaning. Not only is the lipstick tied to negative things as damaging as adultery in this image, it is tied to a literal imprint on a toxic cigarette. This shows Carter’s opinion that the expectations of women to appear perfect with makeup is as harmful as smoking or hurtful as cheating.

–Sophie Needham

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