Things Aren’t Always as They Appear to Be
The world today is extremely image based. Most of what people know about one another is strictly based on images posted on social media. Since people can control what they post, they can also control how they appear to others. It is way too easy to appear as one thing while being something completely different in reality. Appearances are not reliable and can be misleading, which is why people say, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. People often use appearance to deceive others and hide their personal truths. This theme appears in the play “A Dolls House”, while the family may look picture perfect from the outside, behind closed doors there is a lot going on that nobody knows about. The theme also appears in the poem “We Wear the Mask” by Dunbar, the entire poem is about using an appearance to distract people from seeing what’s truly going on inside.
Throughout the play, A Doll’s House, appearances prove to be misleading. Readers soon realize that the first impressions of the characters Nora, Torvald, and Krogstad aren’t at all who the characters truly are. In the beginning Nora seems like an immature, childish woman, but it is revealed as the play goes on that she is actually very intelligent, sneaky, and strong-willed. Torvald spends the entire play hiding the truth to preserve an image, “From now on, forget happiness. Now it’s just about saving the remains, the wreckage, the appearance (Ibsen). Though Torvald plays the part of the strong husband, he reveals himself to be a selfish coward simply obsessed with how he appears to others. This is revealed about him when he fears that Krogstad may expose him. Krogstad, just like everyone else, reveals his true colors as the play progresses and he turns out to be kinder than he allowed himself to appear. Not only are the characters identities misinterpreted but the situations are misinterpreted as well. In the beginning it appears that Mrs. Linde and Krogstad hate one another but they actually love each other. Dr. Rank confesses that he is in love with Nora which is a surprise to her and the readers. The seemingly evil Krogstad regrets his actions and returns Nora’s contract to her, while Mrs. Linde, the woman that appears to be super kind, will not help Nora, and makes sure that Nora’s husband, Torvald, discovers Nora’s secret. All these characters deceived both each other and the readers.
The poem I chose as an example for this theme doesn’t deceive the readers, instead it lets them in on the secret that people aren’t always as they appear, sometimes people are hiding behind a mask, careful not to reveal their secrets.
In the poem, “We Wear the Mask”, the speaker explains how people hide what is truly going on within them by putting on a front for everyone to see, as implied in the line “We wear the mask that grins and lies,” (Dunbar 1). The speaker begins the poem by implying that we wear masks that hide our true feelings, “It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes” (Dunbar 2). He goes on to emphasize the pain and suffering that these masks are meant to cover up as the line states, “… tortured souls arise” (Dunbar 11). By the end we understand that all the subdued emotions are just disguises meant to deceive others and hide the painful truths that hide behind them. While hiding how we truly feel may seem like an easy way out, it is not a permanent solution. People will eventually see through the mask and then you are stuck facing the truth. Being honest with yourself and others will save everyone a lot of wasted time and pain in the end.
The unreliability of appearances within the play is revealed in the end. Torvald has great devotion to an image at the expense of true happiness. Torvald wants his employees, friends, and wife, to view him in a certain light. His status is very important to him. Torvald seems to have certain idealized principles of how he is viewed and how others should treat him, any disrespect angers Torvald greatly. By the end of the play, we see that Torvald’s obsession with controlling his home’s appearance and his denial of reality have undeniably harmed his family and his family’s happiness. Nora realizes in the end that her husband does not truly care about his family, he just cares about how others see his family as she states, “Our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa’s doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls” (Ibsen). Nora doesn’t like that everyone seems to have rolls laid out by the husband to be strictly followed. Hiding the truth of who you are and what is going on in your life can sometimes even prove to be harmful to yourself, you can end up standing in the way of your own happiness which is exactly what Torvald did. Sometimes people hide the truth from others, because they just don’t want to deal with other people’s judgment or simply because they don’t even want to deal with the truth themselves. But Nora becomes tired of living behind a mask, “NORA: I must stand on my own two feet if I’m to get to know myself and the world outside. That’s why I can’t stay here with you any longer” (Ibsen). Nora is ready to go out and discover her true self, she has been pretending to be something that she is not for so long that she is unable to identify who she truly is.
It has been known for centuries that you can’t believe everything you see. That’s why quotes like “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, originally “You can’t judge a book by its binding” (Don’t judge…) and “all that glitters is not gold” meaning that just because something looks good doesn’t mean it truly is (All that glitters…). Quotes like this were created and used centuries ago and are still commonly used today. Even if they have changed a bit from their original stature, they have the same meaning. That meaning is simply what this entire essay is about, appearances are unreliable and deceiving. Today manipulating people through appearance has become even easier, people use the internet to “catfish” people, which is essentially appearing as someone that you aren’t to deceive another person for one’s personal gain. This act isn’t very common, as stated, “Some report that online deception is not a broad phenomenon. Curtis,10 after observing interactions in a text-based virtual reality environment (MUD) over a period of several years, noted that pretending to be someone else was relatively uncommon” (Liebert). Just because online deception isn’t common doesn’t mean face to face deception doesn’t happen every day. People rather smile and say, “I’m good”, than to let others know the truth of what is going on with them inside.
It has become extremely easy to deceive people with appearances these days, but it was going on long before technology got involved. No one should ever strictly judge anything based on appearance because the truth is there is no telling what lies beneath that “disguise”, sometimes the reality of things just isn’t what it appears to be. People take advantage of how easy it is to manipulate people by pretending to be something they are not. They also sometimes get so comfortable wearing a disguise that they lose track of the truth themselves. Never base your judgment on how someone or something appears, things aren’t always what they seem to be.