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“The Beard” and “From Hunger” Essay

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Updated: Mar 26th, 2020


In “From Hunger,” Sarah Gerard has awkward shots of her scarred face that remind her of her lost beauty. Her determination to get over her face reconstruction through travelling lands her in the reality that she is pretty no matter how others look at her. The character accepts herself for who she is.

She then focuses on being a writer more and lets her inner beauty radiate on her. Contrastively, Jonathan Lethem realizes that he has been in a hurry to write and accepts that writing is a meditation that requires frantic compensation.

In his writings, a reader can still see the childish face that lies beneath him but the author tries to hide behind the beard growing as a symbol of his maturity. It is clear that the approaches both authors use to escape reality do not work for them, but they instead realize that they have to face challenges of the real world.

Reality Is Unintelligible

The two authors view reality and the personal identity; it associates with, as unstable or rather unintelligible. The authors argue that people are a mirror of their real selves; and, they are actors in the world with defined roles. Jonathan Lethem uses his characters to depict how reality is slipping away from them in trying to get the essence of everyday life. Thus, the author notes that he had to “quit pretending you understand things you only half understand, and return yourself to wonderment, to masturbation, to dreaming” (Lethem 3).

Similarly, in “From Hunger,” the author realizes that she would never be as beautiful as she wanted to be. She contemplates, “… I knew then… I would never be beautiful like I wanted to be… Like I didn’t want to want to be” (Gerard par. 10). It is clear that the narrator admits that she hardly knew what she wanted to be as reality as well as people’s life is unintelligible.

Writing as a Remedy

The jobs chosen by the characters in both stories depict new ways of viewing the reality in the world. In Lethem’s work, the author tries to identify his integrity as a human self. He makes this optional, to display his relationship with reality. Moreover, the author’s absolute commitment is a means of escaping from his self. The author stresses that “[w]riting is another meditation that’s also a frantic compensation.

As if wearing headphones, I’m putting some of myself to sleep” (Lethem 8). The way the author conflates rich critical insights about the reality produces a rich treatise on the connectivity between life and reality. On the other hand, Sarah Gerard’s “From Hunger” explains the difficulties associated with finding oneself in life. The author tries to show the cause-effect relationships of choices that an individual makes.

The author realizes that travelling was a form of escaping reality. She confesses, “traveling, to me, had been a form of running away from myself” (Gerard par. 18). During her travelling episodes, she just took any path without deciding. The author realizes that the choices that one makes in life are an individual responsibility.

From the unhappiness that the author experiences, she realizes her choices were the contributing factor. The author understands that being a writer is “more important that being beautiful” (Gerard par. 19). It is possible to note that her job becomes a way to become a part of the real world and be able to remain, at least, partially, in her own shell.


In conclusion, it is necessary to state way the authors depict reality leaves readers seething with awe. A glance at both stories reveals a single perceptible pattern in their views of how to escape reality. Sarah Gerard and Jonathan Lethem carry a self-inflated assessment that charms readers. Jonathan Lethem, for instance, preoccupies himself with an elusive metaphysical reality. The author feels that his life is not real if tied to a single sad encounter.

Similarly, Sarah Gerard’s view on reality passes through relentless tests. Only when she abandons her search for beauty, does she finally feel like her life is falling into place. However, both characters, finally, find the way to come to terms with their selves as well as the real world through writing. It is noteworthy that this can be seen as the easiest way as writers can often live in both world, the real one and the world of their own.

Clearly, this is a more tangible way as the characters’ previous attempts are more delusive. The approaches that Jonathan Lethem in “The Beard” and Sarah Gerard in “From Hunger” use to escape reality do not work for them, but they instead have to face numerous challenges of the reality and develop particular strategies to cope with certain issues. At the same time, accepting reality works in both their favors.

They understand who they really are and they are equipped with specific tools to live in the world without illusions that used to help them survive.

Works Cited

Gerard, Sarah. . 2012.

Lethem, Jonathan. . 2005. PDF file.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Beard” and “From Hunger." March 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-beard-and-from-hunger/.


IvyPanda. (2020) '“The Beard” and “From Hunger”'. 26 March.

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