Lusus Naturae or the freak of nature was a story written by Margaret Atwood. It was a dark, scary, and at times, evil story about how a young half-human and half-monster female, which was also the protagonist in the story, was being treated by the people around her. She was so unwanted to the point that her parents just wanted her to die. She was described in the story as someone who has red fingernails, yellow eyes, and thick hair everywhere in the body . The protagonist in the story once said that “our family has always been respected, and even liked, more or less. It still was. It still would be, if something could be done about me. Before I leaked out, so to say” .The theme in the story, which is beauty or in some cases, conformity, with Lusus Naturae will be used to compare these two narratives: the Fluted Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi and Puffed Rice and Meatballs by Lara Vapnyar. One thing that is common among these two short narratives is the fact that they are both related to beauty or the issue of conformity.
In the case of Bacigalupi’s the Fluted Girl, a story about a fluted girl was described. In the story, the author described how the fluted girl’s friends outgrew her. Some of the fluted girl’s friends already grew taller, developed breast, and matured physically. In the story the author wrote “Miriam had grown, her breasts burgeoning, her hips widening, her rosy face smiling, and laughing at her fortune. When they both came to Belari, the fluted girl and Miriam had been the same height” . The fluted girl on the other hand, remained as she was, underdeveloped, she neither grew taller nor developed the kind of breast that her other female friends had, which goes against the expectations of the people around her . In the case of Vapnyar’s Puffed Rice and Meatballs on the other hand, one of the themes that the author talked about other than sexuality was beauty. “Katya lives in a new world, Brooklyn, amongst strangers, when one asks about her past, she talks of Communist rationing, a child’s desires for meatballs and understanding of the differences between boys and girls. She erects those stories to disguise the truth—that friction of material envy and the volatility of burgeoning sexuality” . At some point, the author also talked about conformity. In most cases, beauty is directly related to conformity because people often desire beauty so that they can conform to whatever society, or at least the people in the society, tells them what and how a beautiful individual should look like. The story of Puffed Rice and Meatballs was about Katya, the protagonist in the story, and the story of her first sexual encounter during her childhood, which she refused to share with her new American boyfriend . In the story, it can be ascertained that Katya was longing for beauty and for the idea of people recognizing her beauty, as evidenced by her love of beautiful and foreign clothes that would nicely complement her growing breasts. After an incident at a convenience store wherein the storeowner used her as a battering ram, Katya became frustrated and unsatisfied, discarding all her clothes, crying, feeling all alone, and thinking that she was no longer beautiful.
These two stories can actually serve as perfect evidences of how people want to please society or the people in it so bad. For the protagonists of these two stories and also in the case of most people, they think that the best way to get the attention and approval of society is to be beautiful or at least to have a look that conforms to the conventional notion of beauty. In these two stories, it has been shown that relying on beauty and the perks of conformity to get the illusion that people are attracted to and like you, would almost always lead to frustration. Katya, for example, was blinded by the idea of being beautiful and being wanted and loved by people because of her beauty. In the end, she got disappointed, frustrated, lonely, and alone.
Atwood, Margaret. "Lusus Naturae: The Norton Introduction to Literature." Norton and Company (2014): 224.
Bacigalupi, Paolo. "Pump Six and Other Stories: The Fluted Girl." Night Shade Books 1st Edition (2008): 248.
Vapnyar, Lara. "Puffed Rice and Meatballs." The Norton Introduction to Literature (2010): 70-76.