The essay, “The Beauty Industry” deals with the most extravagant habit of fashionable Americans. The writer satirizes women’s craze for glamour and huge amounts of money spent on it. Out of his vivid observation, he gives details of the beauty cult with a definite moral purpose.
The only American Industry not affected by the slump is the beauty industry or personal appearance business. American women spend about three million pounds a week or one hundred a fifty-six million pounds a year on their faces and magazines contain a large number of beauty ads. Face cream manufacturers, beauty specialists, and vendors of slim belts and massage machines are earning a lot. European women, on the other hand, use soap only. They just wash and hope for the best. Costly beautification is beyond their reach. But even then much more is spending now on beautification.
There are certain causes of this lavish spending on beauty. Firstly, there is a general increase in prosperity with the spread of wealth, even the poor is more well off than their forefathers. The rich have the habit of keeping up their personal appearances. Secondly, women are now freer than the past to look more attractive and perform social functions.
Thirdly, Christian ascetic ideas no longer bother us. We think that the body has its rights as well as duties. But what are the practical results of this beauty cult? Do women look more beautiful than they were? The campaign for beautification is both success and failure depending upon its results. If it prolongs a woman’s youthful appearance it is success, otherwise failure. Old ladies are becoming rare day by day and, in a few years, they will be extinct. Use of surgical and chemical aids is within the reach of every prosperous person. Their use is successful to a certain extend but their excessive use makes people ugly.
The writer draws moral lessons from this beauty cult. He says that beauty lies in the inner as well as the outer self. The affection of the surface of the human body is by its spiritual contents. Spiritual and psychological ugliness is affected and often visible on the face. A person may be beautiful but any of the deadly sins may make him ugly. Melancholy often ruins all charm.
The writer once saw, in North Africa, two American girls whose beauty was spoiled by melancholy on their faces. Their faces were repulsive. Hardness caused by overpainting spoils many pretty faces. In Paris, many women do not look human at all by overpainting. Some emotional or instinctive disharmony also causes hardness. So long as the beauty cult does not touch the soul deeply, it will remain a failure. The people will be beautiful only when they live completely in peace and harmoniously. (The Beauty Industry)
Grandmother as young as her Granddaughter
The success and failure of beautification depend upon its results. If through beautification, a woman can prolong or maintain her youthful appearance it is a success, otherwise a failure. Women apparently have gained a lot. They really look more beautiful than ever before. Cosmetics can hide many defects of their faces and bodies.
The greatest benefit of beautification is that old women’s hollow cheeks, white hair, wrinkles, and bent-backs are becoming rare. Very soon they will be no more. There will be no difference between mothers and their daughters. Old ladies with golden and curly hair, red lips, and thin bodies are seen everywhere. This great change is the result of the use of cosmetics, facial surgery, paraffin wax injections, and improved health. But the excessive use of these devices has resulted in ugliness. Some ladies look more ugly than beautiful. Unless beautification touches the soul it will remain a failure. Real beauty is the beauty of the soul.
Human Body vs Porcelain Jar
Aldous Huxley moralizes upon the beauty cult and says that “real beauty is as much an affair of the inner as of the outer self.” Only outward beauty is not enough. Physical beauty is definitely affected by inner ugliness or inner beauty. The writer explains his point by quoting the example of a porcelain jar. He says that a jar looks beautiful if it has a good shape, fine color, and proper surface; even if it may be full of stink.
He means that a jar has only outward beauty; whereas a woman should have outward as well as inner beauty. Her beauty is not skin-deep. He came across certain ladies who were physically charming but inwardly they were either empty or full of some corruption. He concludes that spiritual ugliness is reflected on the face. Real beauty is, therefore, as much an affair of the inner as of the outer self.
Meaning of Repellent
The writer says that outward beautification does not touch the soul. It only beautifies the face. If a person is spiritually or psychologically ugly, he cannot be beautiful. His ugliness is reflected on his face. The writer, therefore, stresses the ugliness of the self. Psychological ugliness has many forms; namely ugliness of stupidity, unawareness, greed, and of lust. If a person commits any of the deadly sins he turns ugly. (The Beauty Industry)
Sometimes sadness causes ugliness. The writer once saw two American girls in North Africa. Outwardly they were beautiful, but the sad boredom had spoiled their charm. Ugliness is also caused by overpainting. It brings about hardness on the face. In Paris, most of the women overpaint their faces with the result that they don’t look human at all. They are so whitewashed and polished that they seem to be wearing masks. The hardness on their faces is also the result of some emotional or instinctive disharmony. The writer says that the campaign of beautification is a failure because it does not touch the soul. People can be beautiful only if they lead a complete and harmonious life and avoid vices.