Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Shnoz With A Cause
In our humble opinion, Cyrano should have rocked his big-nosed good looks. But, unfortunately, instead of flaunting his individual style in a way that showed the world he loved his looks, Cyrano got shy. Aww, Cy. You could have made that shnoz your thing, like Lauren Hutton's gap teeth or Michael K. William's scar.
But no. He's either paralyzed by it or irate about it. Check out this chunk o' dialogue—it's long, but it sums up Cyrano's attitude really well:
You may go—
Or tell me why are you staring at my nose!
THE MEDDLER (in confusion)
CYRANO (stepping up to him)
Does it astonish you?
THE MEDDLER (drawing back)
Is it long and soft
And dangling like a trunk?
THE MEDDLER (same business)
I never said—
Or crooked, like an owl’s beak?
A pimple ornaments the end of it?
Or a fly parading up and down?
What is this portent?
But I have been careful not to look—
Not, if you please?
It disgusts you, then?
My dear sir—
Does its color appear to you
Oh, by no means!
Or its form
Not in the least—
Then why assume
This deprecating manner? Possibly
You find it just a trifle large?
THE MEDDLER (babbling)
Small, very small, infinitesimal—
How? You accuse me of absurdity?
Small?—my nose? Why—
THE MEDDLER (breathless)
My God!— (I.317-335)
"My God!" indeed.
Cyrano’s nose is the barrier that keeps him from telling Roxane he loves her. And it reminds us that not only is a person judged by others for his appearance, but that a person assimilates these views and is altered by them.
Cyrano’s hyper-sensitivity about nose-comments is understandable, but his reaction to the Vicomte’s inarticulate low-blow is an interesting one; he lists off all the insults Valvert could have come up with, which suggests a perspective and sense of humor regarding the nose we haven’t seen elsewhere:
Ah… your nose… hem!...
Your nose is… rather large!
Is that all?
VALVERT (turns away with a shrug)
Well, of course—
Ah, no, young sir!
You are too simple. Why, you might have said—
Oh, a great many things? Mon dieu, why waste
Your opportunity? For example, thus:—
AGGRESSIVE: I, sir, if that nose were mine,
I’d have it amputated—on the spot!
FRIENDLY: How do you drink with such a nose?
You ought to have a cup made specially.
DESCRIPTIVE: 'This a rock—a crag—a cape—
A cape? say rather, a peninsula!
INQUISITIVE: hat is that receptacle—
A razor-case or a portfolio?
KINDLY: Ah, do you love the little birds
So much that when they come and sing to you,
You give them this to perch on?
INSOLENT: Your chimney is on fire.
CAUTIOUS: Take care—
A weight like that might make you topheavy.
[…] For I say these things
Lightly enough myself, about myself,
But I allow none else to utter them. (I.338-413)
He also claims that such a nose gives him character, but that could easily be a cover-up for what we know to be a huge insecurity.