Vanity

It seems everyone is talking about Good Old Neon because of the obvious societal critiques it makes and i want to continue with that talk with another story, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Although, I am still somewhat confused about the overarching themes, I think we can agree that there is an obvious critique about external appearances. Much like in the first story, the women in this story (note: she is not the narrator) is obsessed with the appearance she portrays to the outside world and so she goes into a surgery to get the crow’s feet around her eyes fixed. Much to her dismay, the surgery leaves her in worse state of being and so she goes into another surgery to have that problem fixed, which only ends up leaving her with “a chronic mask of insane terror.” The mother is a clear example of the vanity that exists now a days and the need to want to fix every minuscule detail that we might consider inperfect, such as crow’s feet.

On the other hand, the narrator (a.k.a. the mother’s son) seems to disconnect from this vanity by labeling everyone and everything as specimens. He dehumanizes them and looks at them as just creatures, maybe in order to emphasize the point of vanity as an external factor. For example, the narrator describes his mother as “a decent-hearted if vain, bitter and timid female specimen but who is not of colossus of the roads of the human intellect” (185). This de-emphasis from humanity and effort to make her appear as just a malleable creature, through surgery, shows his distance from accepting that he is part of that vanity in society. The use of “specimen”  emphasizes  a distance from what he judges in society, yet the narrator never really seems to accept that he is part of it since at the end he labels himself as “her sematic accessory or escort, with my impossible size and goggles one can tell beneath the gaping rictus she believes I can protect her which is good” (189). It seems like he is placing himself as lower than these beings, just an “accessory” rather than a living being.

 

Is the narrator in denial about belonging in such a vain-infested society or has he gone one step farther than deny and actually disconnected himself from such a society? Ideas?

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