Study Guide

The Princess Bride Appearances

By William Goldman


Annette never had a chance. Inside a season, she went from delicate to whopping, and the Duke never glanced in her direction without sad bewilderment clouding his eyes. (1.4)

Annette used to be the most beautiful woman in the world. But once the Duchess started putting chocolate in her path whenever she could, Annette gained a lot of weight and soon became too fat to be considered attractive. Unfortunately, Goldman here is being really hard on bigger people, suggesting that fatness and ugliness are pretty much the same thing, though of course they aren't at all.

"How could someone care if she were the most beautiful woman in the world or not. What difference could it have made if you were only the third most beautiful. Or the sixth." (1.12)

In her younger years, Buttercup couldn't care less if she were the most beautiful girl in the world—all she really cares about is riding her horse and not bathing. Things change as she gets older, though, and Goldman here might be making a commentary on how people tend to care more about their appearances as they grow into young adulthood.

The farm boy had eyes like the sea before a storm, but who cared about eyes? And he had pale blond hair, if you liked that sort of thing. And he was broad enough in the shoulders, but not all that much broader than the Count. (1.135)

Buttercup has always taken Westley for granted. But once another woman starts showing interest in him, Buttercup needs to lie in bed and admit to herself that Westley is attractive. It's not easy for her, though, because she has always believed that she's way too good for Westley.

Her figure faults were gone, the too bony elbow having fleshed out nicely; the opposite pudgy wrist could not have been trimmer. (5.7)

As Buttercup grows older, she becomes more and more beautiful; here, we're given very precise details about exactly what parts of her get better with age. It gets to the point where you wonder if Goldman thinks of Buttercup as an actual character, or just an assembly of ankles, wrists, breasts, and legs.

"Everybody always talks about how beautiful I am. I've got a mind, Westley. Talk about that." (5.1046)

Buttercup finally gets fed up with how much everyone talks about her beauty, and she orders Westley to talk instead about what she's like as a person. After all, getting complimented on your appearance can get annoying after a while.

The year Buttercup turned ten, the most beautiful woman lived in Bengal, the daughter of a successful tea merchant. (1.5)

Once again, Goldman returns to talking about who the most beautiful woman in the world is, even though it has nothing at all to do with the plot of this book. If you ever need a topic for an essay, be sure to write on "Goldman's Obsession with Ranking Women Based on Their Appearances," because we'd love to know more about why we does this.

But through her sixteenth year, even this kind of talk gave way to stammering and flushing and, at the very best, questions about the weather. (1.22)

As Buttercup gets older, the boys in her home village have a harder and harder time talking to her. That's because she's so beautiful that all of them get super nervous around her. The funny thing is that she doesn't think about her appearance at all and does nothing to look after it.

Prince Humperdinck was shaped like a barrel. His chest was a great barrel chest, his thighs mighty barrel thighs. (2.5)

Humperdinck is a thick dude in both body and mind. Yes, he's super strong and wide, but his brain is also thick insofar as he's stubborn and totally unable to change his mind about something once he's made a decision. It's a classic case of appearance and personality being totally the same.

"I'm not marrying any bald princess, and that's that!" (3.54)

Prince Humperdinck is a proud man, and he's not going to marry a bald princess because he doesn't want the commoners snickering about him behind his back. We never actually get any indication of whether Humperdinck himself cares about the baldness; at this point, he only cares about what others will think of him.

"People snicker behind your back when you've got a bald wife, and I can do without that, thank you." (3.54)

Once again, Humperdinck insists that he won't let people laugh at him for marrying a woman without hair. All he really cares about is what other people think about him, which just goes to show the deep connection between caring about appearances and being insecure is.

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