Study Guide

Belle Prater's Boy Appearances

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What a wonder and a joy to behold in the spring when they all bloomed! There were also azaleas, pink and fuchsia. Not to mention the lilac bushes down by the creek, and the wild dogwood. People walking by our houses would sometimes stop there on the road and look and look, like they couldn't believe their dadburned eyes. (1.19)

Gypsy's street in Coal Station is as pretty as a picture; it's the kind of place that looks straight out of a storybook. In fact, it's so lovely that people have a hard time believing that the people who live there are ever sad or unhappy at all.

Woodrow was gawky and backward and wore hillbilly clothes that were hand-me-downs from his daddy and his daddy's brother, Russell. once, when we were about ten, I saw Woodrow, and his pants were too long and too big in the waist, so he had a rope tied around his middle to keep them up. He sure looked funny that day, and I think he felt self-conscious, too, because it was my birthday and I had on a frilly blue dress and black patent-leather slippers. (1.23)

Woodrow and Gypsy are basically polar opposites when it comes to the way they look—he's a hillbilly and she's a gorgeous future debutante—but despite outward appearances, they find they have a lot in common and are destined to become best friends.

And I'll tell you something else about Woodrow—though I don't really want to—he was cross-eyed. Sometimes you couldn't tell if he was looking at you or not, and he had to wear real thick glasses. (1.24)

Woodrow's most distinctive physical feature is the fact that he's cross-eyed. A lot of people get stuck on this one trait instead of seeing who he really is inside and realizing that he's a smart kid.

"She was plain, Gypsy, and that seemed to be the most important thing in the world to her—her looks. Oh, she wanted so much to be beautiful like Love.

"Your mama was—and still is—a natural beauty. She'd pop outa bed of a morning looking like the Camay soap girl. And Belle had to work hard at her looks, then still have not much to show for her efforts." (2.16-17)

Belle wasn't an ugly girl, but next to Love she stood no chance. Love was always such a natural beauty that she outshone Belle in every situation… much to her poor sister's dismay.

"Was Belle cross-eyed?" Clarence asked.

"Oh no," Raymond said. "I went to school with Belle and she wadn't no beauty like Love, but she wadn't cross-eyed either." (3.61-62)

Talk about rude, right? How do the men at the barbershop think it's okay to talk about Woodrow and his mama's looks right in front of him? Don't they have any tact or consideration for his feelings? Grrr…

"Well besides wanting Mama to come home safe and sound, I want my eyes to be straight," he said. "If my eyes were corrected, Gypsy, they would look just like yours."

My heart filled with pity for him, but I didn't say anything. (6.80-81)

If Woodrow could change one thing about himself, it would be his eyes. He doesn't want to be the handsomest dude in the world; he just wants to not have such a conspicuous physical difference.

"How can money make you good-looking?" I said.

"You never heard of operations people get on their faces?" he said. "It costs lots of money. That's why all the movie stars look so good. Did you ever see an ugly movie star? No, you didn't. They have money. And I bet if the truth was known, a bunch of 'em were borned uglier than a mud fence." (9.3-4)

According to Woodrow, plastic surgery can fix anything. He believes that you can do anything to your appearance as long as you have the money to pay for it. Then you don't have to be stuck with your looks at all.

I could see his face and the legendary sightless eyes that were almost not there. They were like two little holes in his face, about the size of dimes, and not eyes at all. It was an automatic reflex for me to shrink from anything so hideous. I almost gasped, but I clapped a hand over my mouth before the hateful sound could escape. (11.16)

Gypsy has to stop herself from reacting to Blind Benny's frightening appearance. It's difficult to not act based on a gut reaction to people, but Gypsy is starting to learn that you should look beyond appearances.

"It seems like anytime a person wants to hurt another person's feelings, he says nasty things about his looks," I said, exasperated. "What possible difference could it make how a person looks if he is a good person?"

"It shouldn't make no difference a'tall," Grandpa said. "But it does to most folks." (13.19-20)

Gypsy is frustrated by the fact that people judge each other based on their appearance, and her Grandpa agrees. It's a shame that people make fun of someone as nice and funny as Woodrow just because he happens to have crossed eyes.

"[…] When I was teaching school, I noticed the best-looking girls and boys could be mean as copperheads, and the ugliest ones could be as good-hearted as they come. But that's not to say either that a pretty person can't be good, too. They can… like your mama. Or that an ugly person can't be bad. They can that, too. But it's only what's in the heart that counts." (13.42)

From all of his years of experience, Grandpa has come to learn that it doesn't matter what people look like; what really matters is how big their hearts are and how they treat other people. That's an important lesson that he wants Gypsy to keep in mind.

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