Bernice Bobs Her Hair
How we cite our quotes:
"What's a little cheap popularity?"
Mrs. Harvey sounded annoyed.
"It's everything when you're eighteen," said Marjorie emphatically. (29-30)
The most valuable thing here isn't what a person is like – rather, all that matters to Marjorie is social standing.
"All I know is that other girls not half so sweet and attractive get partners. Martha Carey, for instance, is stout and loud, and her mother is distinctly common. Roberta Dillon is so thin this year that she looks as though Arizona were the place for her. She's dancing herself to death."
"But, mother," objected Marjorie impatiently, "Martha is cheerful and awfully witty and an awfully slick girl, and Roberta's a marvelous dancer. She's been popular for ages!" (33)
Identity here isn't just based on personality – it's based on public image and gimmicks. Marjorie clearly conceives of identity as a matter of public relations, in which one can only be identified as "popular" or "unpopular."
Next time Bernice danced near, Warren regarded her intently. Yes, she was pretty, distinctly pretty; and to-night her face seemed really vivacious. She had that look that no woman, however histrionically proficient, can successfully counterfeit – she looked as if she were having a good time. He liked the way she had her hair arranged, wondered if it was brilliantine that made it glisten so. And that dress was becoming – a dark red that set off her shadowy eyes and high coloring. He remembered that he had thought her pretty when she first came to town, before he had realized that she was dull. Too bad she was dull – dull girls unbearable – certainly pretty though. (75)
For the first time, Warren takes a real look at Bernice – and notices a change. We also notice a significant change – she's actually, genuinely, whole-heartedly having fun. Can it be that there's more to Bernice than her outmoded beliefs and stuffy platitudes?