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Alice Walker's Journey with Self-Esteem

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Many writers choose to write memoirs about terrible incidents that changed their lives. Alice Malsenior 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"



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