Transcending through time: Appearances
“Don’t judge a book a by its cover” - Transcending through time: Appearances introduction. The age old saying is societies way of conveying the message that appearances are deceiving. Despite the motto’s presence in our modern culture it existed many centuries ago in these different forms showing up as a major theme in the works Shakespeare and additionally appearing as a theme in Jonathan Swift’s satirical book, “Gulliver’s Travels”. In Shakespeare’s comedy ” A Midsummer Night’s Dream” the theme “appearances are deceiving” is a main theme throughout the story. Ranging from donkey heads to its subtle use of a character’s personality Shakespeare’s use of this theme creates a comedy for the ages.
The theme is presented early on in the book when one of the main characters, Demetrius is introduced. Hermia, the girl whom he wants is the daughter of an Athenian noble named Eegus. Eegus wants Hermia to marry Demetrius despite the fact that she is having an affair with another man, Lysander. One assumes that he is a nice person because Eegus wants his daughter to marry him. This assumption later is proven wrong by the introduction of Demetrius’ past lover, Helena. The audience finds out that in the past they were together and Helena still longs for Demetrius and he rejects her multiple times in an extremely harsh manner.
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The first appearance of Demetrius is deceiving he is what one can presume that he is a kind soul but as this plot develops his harsh character is revealed more and more. A quote that easily sums up the play’s plot line is said by Helena, “Love can transpose to form and dignity/Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind. /And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. “(Shakespeare 1. 1. 239-241) It defines love in this story, Helena’s love for Demetrius is blind because he is mean to her but yet she still follows him and loves him.
Especially in Hermia and Lysander’s case they have true love because they love with their mind and not their eyes. Hermia sees Lysander swooning after Helena and she knows in her mind that he still loves her despite what she sees. The most amusing use of this theme doesn’t involve on the main characters but entails one of the more comical actors in the play within this play. His name is Bottom his character is alluded to be very “ass-like” he transformed to have a donkey’s head. His fellow actors falsely believe that Bottom has actually been changed into donkey and flea in terror.
This a comical confusion of appearances because of its literal misunderstanding of the identity of Bottom. Another example that added to the comedic value of the story was quite literally the confusion of one person for another. A servant is asked to anoint the eyes of a sleeping man wearing Athenian colors. The servant mistakes Lysander, who as the plot builds is seen as just a hapless lover for the cruel Demetrius in the dark woods. This act kick starts a series of event in which both Demetrius and Lysander fall in love with Helena whilst rejecting Hermia and ridiculing Helena.
This emphasizes the importance of this theme throughout the book. It can be plainly seen that it is the driving force behind all the actions of the characters in the play. This theme appears in many of the rest of Shakespeare’s books but in this one it remains to be used to comical use only. “Gulliver’s Travels”, a book of many layers and a load of satirical humor. The theme makes appearances in this book though not as frequently as in AMSND. It begins with Gulliver’s very first encounter with strange creatures, the Lilliputians.
With their quirky customs and high proud honor they subdue Gulliver with ease using their creative genius. Gulliver highly respects them because despite the tiny, minute appearance they have quite large and bold opinions. They appear timid and frightened of Gulliver’s body but when they approach him and lash him down them seem much more confident. They even construct a platform about his head in order to speak with him. After Gulliver stays with the Lilliputians for some times he discovers their high and proud attitude that is condescending upon him.
This theme takes the back seat when Gulliver encounters the horse people, the Houyhnhnms. When Gulliver is first brought onto the land of the Houyhnhnms encounters a group of human like creatures he assumes that the species populating this land were what the Houyhnhnms call Yahoos. The reader soon finds out that it is not inhabited by voracious and violent Yahoos but a race of highly intelligent and logical horses. He assumes that these horses would have all the things an “advanced” society would have such as money and the concept of money. He assumed incorrectly as seen in this quote as he struggles to convey its meaning. that when a Yahoo had got a great store of this precious substance, he was able to purchase whatever he had a mind to; the finest clothing; the noblest houses, great tracts of land, the most costly meats and drinks , and have his choice of the most beautiful females. “(Swift 4. 6. 1) Swift uses these examples because they are what men buy most of the time despite the fact that the Houyhnhnms don’ t have this need for material substances. Swift makes use of the theme when Gulliver encounters the massive people of Brobdingag. He is taken in by a “kind” farmer who feeds him and gives him a place to rest.
The appearance of the family that he is taken into is very kind and welcoming. The cruel intentions of the farmer become clear: he is going to make money off of Gulliver. This could be expected though, he is a poor farmer with a tiny specimen that could make him rich. The appearance of his hospitality is deceiving because one can wonder that even in the beginning of their encounter this is what the farmer had planned for Gulliver. Unlike the theme’s use in AMSND it is used to make the story more interesting and provide a more in depth look on society.
In a world full of connections made through the internet and bullying one cannot one determine who to trust . For example on many online social states one has a profile picture. This image could be a false one and not be even of the real person. This theme greatly applies to “the book of life” and its characters who can easily be fooled. This does not only apply internet connections it applies to real people. One has a friend that puts out a confident appearance; despite what one sees on the outside the friend could be truly in pain under their guise. If one were to tell someone something mean or cruel.
The person on the receiving end of that comment could appear to be okay but truly it has hurt them. The whole entire appearance of modern society is deceiving. The glitz-and-glamour of pop culture truly comes down to the nitty-gritty. People lack the scruples to really put the effort to understand someone’s life such as a star’s life that when a star appears to do something horrific and scandalous people tend to over react. The very appearance of many pop culture icons is deceiving they too probably just want a normal life but they are held at such an elevated status that their appearance seems to be almost divine.
The themes in works such and Shakespeare and Swift continue to exist in our modern society. From the Elizabethan age to now the presence of the theme appearances are deceiving has existed. Influencing authors and teenagers it creates sense of caution in today’s society but can be used as a tool to create brilliant comedy, or perhaps it’s better suited for making fun of society. If time is any judge this theme will remain with our population for time to come.