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Writer:- Susan Sontag


Beauty” is an essay written by Susan Sontag, exploring the concept of beauty and its significance in society. In the essay, the author explores the historical and societal perception of beauty, particularly its implications for women. Sontag argues that beauty was once considered a virtue and an integral part of a person’s character in ancient Greek culture. However, the influence of Christianity shifted beauty to being perceived as a superficial and arbitrary enchantment.

Sontag discusses the gendered double standard associated with beauty, where women are primarily attributed with beauty while men are not subjected to the same level of scrutiny. She critiques the societal pressure on women to conform to idealized standards of beauty, which can lead to self-oppression, dissatisfaction, and the perpetuation of stereotypes. Additionally, she examines how the emphasis on women’s beauty can hinder their growth and autonomy, as they are often expected to prioritize their appearance over other qualities.

The essay highlights the limitations and inequality faced by women in a society that values beauty as a form of power, but one that is often tied to attracting men and is superficial in nature. Sontag argues for a reevaluation of beauty, emphasizing the need for women to gain critical distance from societal beauty standards and reclaim beauty as a more empowering and individualistic concept.


1. What is the conventional attitude about beauty that Sontag seeks to discredit?

ans: Sontag seeks to discredit the conventional attitude about beauty that prioritizes women’s appearance over other qualities and reduces beauty to a superficial and arbitrary enchantment.

2. If beauty is a source of power, why does Sontag object to women`s striving to attain it?

ans: Sontag objects to women’s striving to attain beauty because she believes that it places an undue burden on women and reinforces societal inequalities. While she acknowledges that beauty can be a form of power, she argues that women should not be limited to seeking power solely through their physical appearance.

3. What change in attitude do you think Sontag wants to bring about in her female readers and in male readers?

ans: Sontag seeks to bring about a change in attitude towards beauty and its association with women. She wants to challenge the conventional beliefs that define beauty as the primary source of power and worth for women. Sontag aims to empower her female readers by encouraging them to recognize and embrace their inner qualities, such as intelligence, competence, and strength, as sources of power and self-worth. She wants women to move beyond the pressure to conform to societal beauty standards and instead focus on personal growth, achievement, and self-acceptance.

4. What do you think Sontag is saying to beautiful women? How do you think they would respond?

ans: Sontag is addressing beautiful women and questioning the societal expectations and pressures placed upon them. She is urging them to recognize that their value and worth extend beyond their physical appearance. Sontag encourages beautiful women to embrace their inner qualities, intellect, talents, and achievements, rather than solely relying on their external beauty as a source of power or validation.

The response from beautiful women to Sontag’s message may vary. Some may resonate with her perspective and feel empowered by the idea of being valued for more than just their looks. They may find solace in the notion that their worth is not solely tied to their physical appearance and may seek to explore and develop their other qualities and talents. On the other hand, some beautiful women may feel conflicted or resistant to Sontag’s viewpoint.

5. Why is it wrong to try to be beautiful?

ans: Sontag argues that it is not inherently wrong to desire or appreciate beauty. However, she criticizes the societal pressure and obligation placed on women to conform to narrow standards of beauty. Sontag suggests that the pursuit of beauty, as it is traditionally understood, can be oppressive and limiting for women.


1. Why does Sontag begin her essay by defining the Greek attitude toward beauty?

ans: Sontag begins her essay by defining the Greek attitude toward beauty to establish a contrast between the historical perception of beauty and the contemporary understanding. By highlighting the Greek belief that beauty was a virtue and an excellence, she underscores the shift in societal attitudes over time.

By referencing the Greek perspective on beauty, Sontag suggests that beauty has lost its central place in contemporary ideals of human excellence. She traces this shift to the influence of Christianity, which limited the concept of excellence to moral virtue and diminished the significance of beauty. Thus, Sontag’s reference to the Greek attitude toward beauty serves as a foundation for her exploration of how beauty has been marginalized and devalued in modern society.

2. How does Sontag go about generating sympathy for women from her audience?

ans: Sontag generates sympathy for women by highlighting the societal pressures and expectations placed upon them in relation to beauty. She argues that women are taught to see their bodies as fragmented parts to be scrutinized and evaluated, leading to feelings of inferiority and self-oppression. Sontag criticizes the idea that beauty is the primary form of power women are encouraged to seek, emphasizing that it is limited to attracting men rather than empowering women in broader contexts.

3. Why would the Athenians find it paradoxical that Socrates was so ugly?

ans: The Athenians would find it paradoxical that Socrates was so ugly because in Greek society, beauty was associated with virtue and excellence. The well-born young Athenians held the belief that inner beauty would be matched by physical beauty. Socrates, being renowned for his wisdom, bravery, and honor, would have been expected to possess physical attractiveness as well. The fact that Socrates was intelligent, virtuous, and seductive, but physically unattractive challenged the conventional notion that beauty and goodness were inherently linked. This paradox would have been puzzling and intriguing to the Athenians.

4. What is the tone of the essay?

ans: The tone of the essay by Susan Sontag can be described as critical, insightful, and persuasive. Sontag presents her arguments and observations regarding beauty and its implications with a sense of authority and intellectual rigor. She challenges conventional attitudes and social norms related to beauty, highlighting the disparities between men and women in how beauty is perceived and pursued. While the essay addresses serious and sensitive issues, there is also an underlying tone of empowerment and the desire for change. Sontag encourages readers to question and reconsider their beliefs about beauty, urging for a more nuanced and liberated understanding of the subject.

5. What is the differece between “femininity” and “feminism”?

ans: The terms “femininity” and “feminism” refer to distinct concepts related to gender and women’s roles in society:

Femininity: Femininity is a cultural and social construct that encompasses the qualities, behaviors, and characteristics typically associated with women. It often includes traits such as nurturance, sensitivity, gentleness, and grace. However, it’s important to note that femininity varies across cultures and can be influenced by societal expectations and stereotypes. Femininity is not inherent or fixed but rather a set of perceived gender norms and expressions.

Feminism: Feminism, on the other hand, is a social and political movement that advocates for gender equality, women’s rights, and challenging the systemic oppression and discrimination faced by women. Feminism seeks to address issues such as gender-based discrimination, unequal opportunities, and patriarchal power structures. It aims to empower women, challenge gender roles, and promote social, economic, and political equality between genders.

While femininity is associated with the traditional societal expectations placed on women, feminism seeks to challenge and transcend those expectations. Feminism does not seek to undermine femininity but rather aims to empower women to define and express their identities and choices beyond traditional gender roles. Feminism recognizes that gender is a social construct and advocates for equality and justice for people of all gender identities.


1. What is your personal definition of beauty?

ans: Beauty is often described as a quality or combination of qualities that bring pleasure, satisfaction, or admiration to the senses, emotions, or intellect. It can refer to physical attractiveness, aesthetic qualities in art or nature, or even the expression of inner qualities such as kindness, wisdom, or integrity. Beauty is subjective and can vary from person to person, influenced by individual preferences, cultural backgrounds, and personal experiences.

2. Are Sontag`s claims about the place of beauty in a culture applicable to Neplai culture as well? Explain your answer.

ans: The applicability of Sontag’s claims about the place of beauty in a culture, including Nepali culture, would depend on various factors such as societal norms, values, historical influences, and individual perspectives within that culture.

It is important to recognize that cultures differ in their attitudes towards beauty and the roles assigned to it. While some aspects of Sontag’s arguments might resonate with certain aspects of Nepali culture, it is crucial to conduct a more comprehensive study of Nepali society, cultural values, and the perception of beauty within that specific context to determine the extent to which her claims apply.

Considering Nepal’s rich cultural heritage, including its diverse ethnic groups, traditions, and religious influences, beauty ideals and their implications may vary across different regions and communities within the country. Exploring Nepali literature, arts, social practices, and engaging with Nepali perspectives would provide a more informed understanding of the place of beauty in Nepali culture and its relationship to societal norms and values.

3. As the world becomes more connected, what are some possible influences of television, the internet, and other international connections on world perceptions of beauty?

ans: The increasing interconnectedness of the world through television, the internet, and other international connections has had a profound impact on world perceptions of beauty. These mediums have facilitated the exchange of cultural ideas, beauty standards, and images across borders, influencing the way people perceive and define beauty. One major effect is the globalization of beauty standards, where certain ideals, often associated with Western cultures, gain prominence and become widely accepted as the epitome of beauty. This can result in a homogenization of beauty ideals, as diverse cultures and their unique standards are overshadowed by a more standardized and commercialized notion of beauty.

Moreover, the constant exposure to digitally altered and idealized representations of beauty can create unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy among individuals. On the positive side, these global connections can also foster a more inclusive and diverse understanding of beauty by allowing for the celebration of various cultural aesthetics and challenging traditional norms. The internet, in particular, has provided platforms for marginalized communities to redefine beauty and challenge the mainstream narratives. Nonetheless, it is essential to approach these influences critically, recognizing both the potential for positive cultural exchange and the risks of perpetuating narrow beauty standards.

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