Many writers choose to write memoirs about terrible incidents that changed their lives. Alice Mal senior Walker is one of those writers. She was born on February 8, 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia. She considers her life to be very successful for several reasons. Walker graduated from high school as valedictorian. She was involved with the civil rights movement in Mississippi where she lived for seven years.
During that time she also got married to a lawyer and had her daughter Rebecca. From an early age she was introverted and quite shy, most likely due to a terrible accident. She immediately retreated into solitude, reading poems and stories and then finally writing. "Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self", by Alice Walker, is an essay that reflects on her ideas of beauty as a child, a teenager, and as an adult. Walker spent a great deal of time outside, due to the overcrowding in a small house with eight children (St. James).
While playing outside at age eight, she was shot with a BB gun in the eye, causing her to lose not only her vision in her right eye, but her self esteem as well. She describes several events in her life that are significant in the formation of her identity. Alice Walker's past reliance of being a physically cute girl, how confident she feels both before an after her surgery, and her constant feeling of being criticized are all factors that make her the woman that she is today. In order for Alice Walker to know the difference between the positive stares that she got when she was younger and the negative glances that she got when she was older, she had to experience that there was a difference between the two. Before the terrible BB gun accident, there was not a doubt in her mind that when people looked at her they saw an adorable little girl. She said, 'It was great fun being cute.' Afterwards, she believed that all they saw was 'a glob of whitish tissue, a hideous cataract" (Walker 3).
She compared the beautiful child that she was, to the ever-growing adult that she grew to become. She had a constant inner struggle between the person that she knew she was and the person that she appeared to be. "Now when I stare at people-a favorite pastime, up to now-they will stare back. Not at the 'cute' little girl, but at her scar" (Walker 3). Years later in her home, a woman arrived to take the photo for the back of Walker's book. The woman asked her how she wants to look, as "glamorous or whatever." The "whatever" part suggests just the opposite and in turn, and to Walker, was suggested as an insult.
The statement could have been an innocent comment by the woman with no harm intended. However, due to the constant feeling of being judged, she took the innocent comment and broke it down to be more than it was. After being tormented at school, constantly asked about it, and knowing specifically that she was different than other people, she developed a sense of inferiority among other people. In reality the scar caused her to see a distorted image of herself that nobody else could see. For six years after that incident, Walker hated her eye. There was once a time when she would stare back at those who marveled over her looks, but now it was different: she did not look up.
At night before she would go to sleep she would stare in the mirror, despising what she saw. "That night, as I do almost every night, I abuse my eye. I rant and rave at it, in front of the mirror. I plead with it to clear up before morning. I tell it I hate it and despise it.
I do not pray for sight. I pray for beauty" (Walker 4). The way that she felt about herself changed from love, to hate, and finally back to love. Alice Walker went from confident child who was adored by spectators. She loved dressing up and being the cute child.
However, once she got the blemish on her eye, she was turned to a girl who hated both her eye and herself; judged by an atrocious accident that she had no control over. With the white scar also came a great burden of self-consciousness. A major step in Walker's life occurred after the white scar was removed with surgery, and most of her sadness left with it. "Almost immediately I become a different person from the girl who does not raise her head. Or so I think" (Walker 4).
She went on to tell of the great things in life that she was proud of, including her boyfriend, friends, and confidence. However, the lingering feeling of judgment was never far from her mind. The last transition between hate and love for herself occurred when her infant daughter comments on the fact that the scarred eye looked like a world. "There was a world in my eye. 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" (Walker 6). Throughout the essay, Walker grew to appreciate the fact that she still could see, which was much better than her original fears of eventually turning blind.
She made many subtle references to sight and how precious it was throughout the essay. In the last paragraph, she described having a dream about dancing to a Stevie Wonder song, who is blind himself. Also, in the beginning of the essay she made a reference to how beautiful her father's eyes were. Walker was highly concerned with her doctor's statement, "Eyes are sympathetic. If one is blind, the other will likely become blind, too" (Walker 3). She finally came to realize and was grateful for the fact that she lost only her sight in one eye instead of two.
She treasured the idea that she got to see the desert; it was described in several poems that she has written. Those subtle, although noted, references tell that she wanted to experience all that she could with her vision, while she still had it. Although many of us take our physical for granted, Alice Walker choose to share her personal hardships and experiences to show how she has grown to become the writer that she is today. Her positive memories of being an adorable child have shaped her to realize what both ends of the spectrum's are like, and what she will never be again. Low self-esteem soon followed, and as Walker grew, she also learned how to cope with the abysmal comments that she was destined to hear. However, as she grew into womanhood, her knowledge that she was still the same person thrived.
Although being constantly judged, Alice Walker made light of the situation and realized that she loves the woman that she has become. Works Cited " St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture: Alice Walker." Gale Group: 5 pars. On-line. Internet. 25 Jan.
2004. Available web 0/g 1 etc / bio /2419201268/p 1/a rti cle. j html Walker, Alice. 'Beauty When The Other Dancer is the Self.' The Blair Reader Second Edition. Ed. Laurie Kirshner, and Stephen R.
Mandell. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. 1-7.