Study Guide

The Princess Bride Appearances

By William Goldman


It's a rough thing to say, but there are more than a few occasions in The Princess Bride where things get pretty superficial. Appearances come up time and again in this book, and despite Buttercup being the only major female character, there's a surprising amount of wordage dedicated to ranking women based on their appearances. When we begin the book, instead of delving into the characters we're interested in, we're given a rundown of the world rankings of beautiful women. Ugh.

This appearance-based opening to the book really sets the tone for the interest in appearances that courses through the text. And while in some books appearances offer depth of meaning to characters, in this book they instead almost work to keep things simple. Buttercup is beautiful, for instance, but wishes she were valued for more—and the same can be said for Fezzik and Westley in their own ways. It never gets much more complex than that, though.

Questions About Appearances

  1. Do you think that The Princess Bride puts to much emphasis on people's appearances, or is that just part of good storytelling? Why?
  2. Do you think that William Goldman (the real dude) is as interested in appearances as he appears to be (as his fictionalized self) in this book, or do you think he's just doing this to make fun of himself a little?
  3. Can you name a few examples from the book where people's appearances tell us a lot about their personalities? Use specific evidence from the text to support your answer.
  4. How does Buttercup feel about the way the people in this book are constantly praising her beauty? What else would she like to hear?

Chew on This

In The Princess Bride, a person's outward appearance almost always gives us an accurate idea of what they're like on the inside.

In The Princess Bride, appearances can be very deceiving, and Goldman is quick to tell us never to judge a book by its cover.

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