Body image is a very controversial topic regarding how people are expected to look, in order to be deemed, “pretty” or “handsome.” What do you think of when you hear the word, “normal” or “perfect?” Octavia B. Butler, and Percival Everett wrote about two very different perspectives of looking different than the ideal image. On one hand you have accepting people but on the other, you have people who whisper and gossip and do not accept anyone a little bit different from them.
In Clay’s Ark, when Blake first saw the people infected with the disease he had said, “Green Shirt, shorter and smaller-boned, did not look healthy himself. He was blond, tanned beneath his coating of dust, though his tan seemed oddly gray. He was balding…A sick man(Butler, 461).” Blake is describing how Ingraham looks, but later he will figure out that everyone who is infected with the disease looks like Ingraham. The people with the disease are a gray-pale color, they are constantly sweating, and they are very thin so even their clothing looks baggy. While reading Clay’s Ark, I constantly thought to myself how different the infected people look from the rest of the world and how scared Blake, Keira, and Rane must be. The more I read, the more I started to understand that they may look weak and sick, but they are people just like Blake, Keira and Rane. Then I felt guilty for judging them for not looking how the world had deemed “normal.” The world has made it so normal to judge people that dont all look and act the same and I fell for it and judged people who would not look like me. The infected people stayed in an isolated community, which I understood because if they didn’t then they would just infect more people. But as we dug deeper into the book I found myself thinking of what it would be like to live in a community like this one, where everyone looks the same. Living in a community where everyone looked pretty similar had its benefits, for example no one worried about how they look because they all looked just as gray and sick as each other. This made me think of Keira and why she didn’t really mind being in the community with Eli and the others. “Keira had been pretty once-when she was healthy…the doctor had turned to old-fashioned chemotherapy. This had caused most of her hair to fall out. She had lost so much weight that none of her clothing fit her properly. She could see herself fading away(Butler,460).” Keira had leukemia and looked just as sick and weak as Eli and Meda and Ingraham do. Keira didn’t mind being in that community because she understood how it felt to be stared at and judged and in the community, everyone looked just like Keira.
In Zulus, Alice Achitophel wasn’t as lucky to find people that understood her as Keira did. Percival Everett used words such as “wide, enormous, and fat” to describe Alice. Alice was a very kind woman who was constantly judged because of her weight, no one really cared to get to know Alice and just knew her from her size. “The old woman would call the fat police or some-damn-body like that and they would take Alice Achitophel away to a reduction camp and they would find out that she was pregnant(Everett, 19).” In this quote, Alice is talking about the lady that lives in her neighborhood, Mrs. Landers. Mrs Landers does not like Alice and thinks of her as a nuisance, and judges her for her size. “No one ever sat next to Alice Achitophel, not even for warmth on such days as this, and the riders had long ceased casting suspicious and accusing looks her way, so she thought of herself as being alone on the tram, thought of it as her tram(Everett, 21).” No one is sitting next to Alice on the tram and instead, choose to stare at her and mock her. This makes me realize how awful it must feel for Alice because she has done nothing wrong. She is just trying to sit on the tram and get to her destination but the other people on the tram and not welcoming to her. The one person who did not care about Alice’s size was Theodore Theodore, “Theordore Theodore did not shake his head when he looked at Alice Achitophel, nor did he look away(Everett, 22).” Theodore Theodore respected Alice and perhaps knew how it felt to be stared at and have people constantly whispering about him. Theodore Theodore did not fit society’s idea of the “norm” either. Theodore Theodore was very short, under five feet but he spoke with confidence, although he did have a high voice, he spoke loud, directed at people instead of a situation. Theodore Theodore may have not looked like everybody else but he knew how to carry himself to get the respect he deserved. Alice lacked confidence and always thought very low of herself, when Theodore Theodore compliments her about her dress, she felt anxious and “upset that he had even spoken to her(Everett, 23).” Alice was so used to being ridiculed that she was so self conscious about herself that she did not understand why Theodore Theodore spoke to her, let alone compliment her. Later in the book, Alice met with Body Woman Rima. Body Woman Rima treated Alice like she was not a human being, Body Women Rima called Alice filthy and said, “The smell is dreadful…We’d best be careful, it might be harmful for us to breathe it in for too long(Everett, 90).” Body Women Rima was examining Alice to see if she was pregnant but Alice knew she was dirty due to the fact that she had been traveling. Alice asked to bathe but Body Women Rima completely ignores Alice and continued to make crude comments like these. I felt bad for Alice while reading Zulus, because no one deserves to feel like Alice did in a majority of the book. Society took Alice because she did not look like everyone else and was a little bit different, and made her feel ashamed of herself.
While reading Zulus, and Clay’s Ark, it was so interesting to compare the difference of how people were treated Alice to how Eli and the other people accepted each other and were there for each other. Eli had a whole community, while Alice had no one except herself to get through their tough times. While reading these two books I compared it to the world today, so many famous people get surgeries and have so much money to change how they look to make themselves look like their idea of perfect. But then the everyday people who idolize them start to feel like they need to look like that or they are not pretty or handsome. Society tricks people into thinking they are not good enough and I think it’s time that this ends.