The Truth About Appearances

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A boy, Jacob, runs to a street vendor and steals a loaf of bread. The vendor, noticing the missing loaf, raises a cry. He tries to catch the boy but can’t keep up with the boy’s quick feet. The vendor reports the incident to the police, and, within hours, the boy’s face is posted on “Wanted” posters all around town. Meanwhile, Jacob is feeding the stolen bread to his dying mother. His family is poor; they can’t afford to buy a loaf of bread on their own so Jacob decides steal one instead. Is he a thief? Or is he just an unfortunate boy who loves his mother? At first, Jacob seems to be a villainous thief, but a further look into his story shows him as a loving son. The way something seems to be is not always the same as it actually is.

First impressions can be misleading because things are liable to misinterpretation. In Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennet initially viewed Mr. Darcy as aloof and arrogant. At social functions, he ignored the “commoners” and refused to dance with any of the women. However, Lizzie’s opinion of Mr. Darcy changed when he saved her sister from public disgrace. She began to see Mr. Darcy for who he really was: affectionate, loving, and genial person, instead of who she thought he was: cold and proud. If she had only evaluated Mr. Darcy for what he seemed to be, she wouldn’t have been able to find true love and Austen’s novel wouldn’t be nearly as renowned as it is today.

Secondly, things come in disguise and therefore aren’t always what they seem to be. During the Trojan War, the Trojan Horse seemed, at first glance, to be a peace offering. Nothing about the wooden horse hinted any sign of treachery or misdemeanor. However, that impression led to the fall of Troy. Once the soldiers stationed inside the horse were let into the walled city of Troy, they opened the city gates for the Spartans, and, overnight, Troy was captured. The innocent appearance of the Horse masked the inner, destructive strategy that it carried. The way the horse seemed was not the same as it actually was.

Apart from literature, things appear different than they actually are in history. King Henry VIII of England is one example. He seemed to his allies and enemies to be a formidable and lucky man, successful ruler of England and father to three children, one of them a son. However, upon further investigation, Henry VIII led a depraved and broken life. He had six wives, two of which he had beheaded. His only son had constant illnesses, and his favorite wife, Jane, died in childbirth. While his affluence and status made him seem as if he led a prosperous and happy life, he had, in fact, a sad one.

Let’s take another look at Jacob, that impoverished, loving boy who’s wanted by the government for stealing a loaf of bread. Can we really call him a thief, when his actions were controlled by his altruistic love for his mother? No, we can’t, because we’ve looked past the first layer of the story and know the motives for his actions. Jacob may have initially been considered a thief, but that impression changed the moment we knew he stole for the sake of his dying mother. The way he seemed masked who he really was. In the world today, if we always created our opinions of someone based on first impressions, we wouldn’t leave any space for change, as a person’s reputation would be immediately established within the first few minutes of confrontation. In the world today, if we always created our opinions of someone based on first impressions, we would be sending poor boys like Jacob to jail, simply for loving their mothers.





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