Woman’s Identity vs. Beauty Ideals: A Comparative Study of Selected Contemporary Novels


  • Marwa Ghazi Mohammed Department of English, College of Education for Women, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq




Assimilation, beauty myth, belonging, identity, perfection, society mirror standards


Cultural notions about woman’s identity play a role in woman self-acceptance and self- worth. Generally speaking, these ideas affected women since they have shaped their feelings of worth and beauty. Nowadays pursuit of beauty ideal has become one of the problematic issues to meet particular standards. Moreover, the development of selfhood is influenced by the mirror of the society. Ethnicity, body shape, skin colour, age, and wrinkles are various forms of society standards of beauty which some women shape their identities by modifying accordingly. Thus, beauty ideals become a form of restriction and enslavement because women are forced to follow and sometimes suffer to have the sense of belonging. Three novels are selected in this paper to study the problematic issue of what is meant by beauty ideal. Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of the Face (1994) depicts the suffering of a woman who has a struggle with jaw cancer since early childhood. Surviving the cancer means removing part of her jaw which causes the tragedy of her life. Zadie Smith’s The White Teeth (2000) is a work about the postcolonial society of London where Irie considers herself British despite her dark skin due to her Jamaican roots. White skin is one of the ideals of beauty according to the British standard. Ellen Hopkins’ Perfect (2011) is a novel in which the writer asks the question who defines the word ‘perfect’, the question is asked through Kendra whose dream is to be a model and a star.


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