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Cyrano's Nose

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Shnoz With A Cause

This is seriously one of the most famous body parts in literature, along with Samson's curly locks, Captain Hook's (lack of) hand, and a certain old landlord's tell-tale heart.

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:

CYRANO
You may go—
Or tell me why are you staring at my nose!
THE MEDDLER
(in confusion)
No
—I
CYRANO
(stepping up to him)
Does it astonish you?
THE MEDDLER
(drawing back)
Your grace
Misunderstands my

CYRANO
Is it long and soft
And dangling like a trunk?
THE MEDDLER
(same business)
I never said

CYRANO
Or crooked, like an owl’s beak?
THE MEDDLER
I

CYRANO
Perhaps
A pimple ornaments the end of it?
THE MEDDLER
No

CYRANO
Or a fly parading up and down?
What is this portent?
THE MEDDLER
Oh!

CYRANO
This phenomenon?
THE MEDDLER
But I have been careful not to look

CYRANO
And why
Not, if you please?
THE MEDDLER
Why

CYRANO
It disgusts you, then?
THE MEDDLER
My dear sir

CYRANO
Does its color appear to you
Unwholesome?
THE MEDDLER
Oh, by no means!
CYRANO
Or its form
Obscene?
THE MEDDLER
Not in the least

CYRANO
Then why assume
This deprecating manner? Possibly
You find it just a trifle large?
THE MEDDLER
(babbling)
Oh no!

Small, very small, infinitesimal

CYRANO
(roars)
What?
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:

VALVERT
Ah… your nose… hem!...
Your nose is… rather large!
CYRANO
(gravely)
Rather.
VALVERT
(simpering)
Oh well—
CYRANO
(coolly)
Is that all?
VALVERT (turns away with a shrug)

Well, of course—
CYRANO
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.

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