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Appearance vs Reality Can you really believe your eyes?

For example we have these classic illusions: All of which have two perceptions but it is never really clear which is the true identity.

Novel, film and short story: ●

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens.

Black Swan – Darren Aronofsky.

The Geranium – Patricia Grace.

Theme Portrayal: ●



Within society.

Great expectations Charles Dickens

Appearance vs reality in the physical state.

Character who portrays the theme: Phillip (Pip) Pirrip.

Pip is the adopted son of Mr and Mrs Joe.

Mr Joe is in the Blacksmith trade, Pip will be his apprentice when he turns 14 years old. Ms. Havisham invites Pip to play at her estate once and week and opens his eyes to a gentleman's society. Pip meets Estella and Estella denounces him as common, inspiring his great expectation to become a gentleman all the more. An anonymous benefactor funds Pip's desire to become a gentle man – Pip assumes it to be Ms. Havisham .

Contrast between Bentley Drummond – A gentleman by birth with Joe – A gentleman by nature. Pip's desire to please Estella drove him to aspire to Bentley Drummond. Pip realises the important qualities of a gentleman that Joe possesses only when he is placed in Pip's new found gentleman's society. Pip learns valuable lessons from his misguided assumptions and Great Expectations based on appearance.

Black swan Darren Aronofsky ●

Appearance vs reality in the mental state.

Character who portrays the theme: Nina Sayers. Nina is a ballet dancer who has a very close relationship with her mother.

Her mother encourages Nina to dance the lead role as a way of living her failed ballet dreams through her daughter.

Film is from Nina's perspective, the viewer is unsure what is real or not – In this way the viewer can empathize with Nina. White swan – Black swan. Good – Evil. Balanced mental state – Insanity.

Nina becomes isolated due to the pressure from both her mother and Thomas Leroy and the competition of her peers. This leads to her loss of grip on reality given she has no supports to base it on. Throughout the deterioration of her mental state Nina tries to maintain her physical appearance, this further blurs the line between appearance versus reality for Nina, the other characters and the viewer. In the final scene she returns to the costume of the white swan which reflects her nature, however, her mental state is seemingly irreversibly changed. Her final words “I felt it. Perfect. It was perfect” are vague and leave the viewer questioning what they mean. Because we have been on a journey with Nina we come to the end and we cannot distinguish whether she is speaking about a perfect performance or a perfect end to her life given the amount of blood she was shown to be losing. But this blood wasn't acknowledged by any other characters – Was it real?

The Geranium Patricia Grace ●

Appearance vs reality within society.

Character who portrays the theme: Marney.

Appearance - A stay at home mum who is content to stay indoors and clean. Reality - Someone who is surviving a dysfunctional relationship and is shut out of society. Marney is reluctant to go out of the house – Even with her friends. The highlight of her week is “The paper that came on a Wednesday” which is her connection to the society she is not able to have contact with.

Bob’s dominance show us the reason for Marney’s reluctance to leave for the shops earlier and why she finds the housework so important. Marney wearing things such as her cardy to cover the bruises on her arms. In reality she is the victim of a physically and mentally abusive relationship. She is trapped within her 'Battered Woman's Syndrome'. The only escape is for someone from society to see through her well contained appearance and see the reality of her life behind it.

Influences of the change: ●

Each character who undergoes a change in their appearance versus their reality, whether it be physically, mentally or within society, is influenced by another person.

For Pip it is Estella.

For Nina it is Thomas Leroy.

For Marney it is Bob.


When will we reach the point where people don't feel the need to hide the reality of their situations with a false appearance that most people will take at face value as the truth?

How will the younger generations such as teenagers today develop into society and form their own unique image and identity when this peer pressure from society and individuals within it to 'fit in' keeps them from exploring and developing freely into who they want to be?

How do we identify and help those in our society whose identity has been suppressed to the point where they themselves accept their false appearance as their reality?

Why do people think they need to portray some image in the first place?

Thank you.

Appearance vs reality  

Exploring the theme of 'appearance vs reality' in literature: Great Expectations – Charles Dickens. Black Swan – Darren Aronofsky. The Geran...