Examining Beauty© 2010, Shaun Ono, Jessica Anderson, Mary Sands, Marshall Jeske
Esmeralda is a representation of the correlation between beauty and internal goodness in fairy tales. Her plainness is defined only by her facial features which are not flawed aesthetically, but metaphorically. For example, "Her nose went up where it should have gone down..."(McGinley 16) which reflects her snobby attitude and, "...her mouth went down where it should have gone up..." (McGinley 16) which signifies the frown achieved not doing anything fulfilling in her life. It is not until Esmeralda becomes a humble and helpful young lady that her facial features return to their natural positions. Her transformation is not executed by means of magic or physical alteration but simply by changing her attitude on life.
The Plain Princess uses Esmeralda's face as a literal symbol of her selfish disposition. It is often found that beauty is linked with goodness and ugliness with evil (Baker-Sperry 718), hence why Esmeralda is initially described as plain. She lacks proper direction in her life, which is literally reflected in the unnatural direction of her upturned nose and her downturned mouth. Unlike other fairy-tales where beauty is the means of a reward, Esmeralda is rewarded with beauty by becoming a good person. Gifts of beauty often bring little happiness to those that seek them out and receive them without struggle (Moss 49). Esmeralda's potential for beauty was with her the whole time and is revealed naturally as she replaces selfishness with kindness.
Esmeralda is white and is born into a wealthy family, which are two of the three commonly associated characteristics with beauty in fairy tales (Baker-Sperry 719). Esmeralda, however, is not virtuous and therefore an incomplete beauty. It is not enough that she is born into royalty; Esmeralda has to grow into being a princess, and learn that true beauty comes from the inside.