By: Alfredo Valverde
Appearance, defined by the Dictionary Reference as the “state, condition, manner, or style in which a person or object appears; outward look or aspect”, is a peculiar characteristic nature gives to living organisms use in order to interact with their environment in an advantageous manner. As it is most known, the term “false appearance” is used as a suggestive behavior of deceit or dishonesty, which leads generally to unfair advantages in any branch of life. From a merely physical appearance, which might be fairly simple to distinguish from objective reality, to a more complex, emotional or attitude-oriented disguise of reality, a false appearance has important implications in living organisms’ interaction. False appearances are a highly valuable literary topic as is the case of Jane Austen’s novel Emma. More specifically, the use of false appearances ranges from animals to humans in wide plausibility, which is further exploited and perfectly characterized by Frank Churchill’s role.
‘Survival of the fittest’, Charles Darwin coined term for stating that only smarter and physically enhanced organisms shall live on, leads living organisms in the search for self improvements. Particularly, animals are a great example of physical representations of false appearances. The main purpose for their use of a false physical appearance is protection. A chameleon is probably the most widely known animal to have a defensive mechanism by which it enhances its survival probabilities: camouflage. This not only allows chameleons to be unperceived when right in front of their hunters’ sight, but it offers a better possibility of escape. An even better example of a false appearance for protection are wild cats, which as domestic cats, curve their back upwards when in the presence of danger in the same way cobras maximize the surface area around their heads from their frontal view. This serves the specific purpose of creating the impression of being “bigger and less fragile”. Animals therefore, have an important usage of false appearances in their own preservation, survival.
When it comes to the other side of the spectrum, however, a more intricate analysis of behavior needs to be performed when dealing with humans. The ability to emotionally deceive individuals is acquired at a young age, and it is expressed the moment a toddler decides to ‘manipulate’ his parents with his crying. In the adult years, false appearances are an efficient way to obtain desired results from other people’s ignorance in the sense that it allows the disguising of undesirable characteristics of one’s own self, also known as hypocrisy, to approach a person and remain close to them, probably “sucking like a leech” from their many advantages. False appearances however, besides from its directly beneficial application, can also be used to maintain a social status and respectability. Furthermore, it might as well help an individual hide a hurtful situation in one aspect of their life to thrive in others, which is commonly seen in the case of tempestuous family relationships not interfering with the work environment. In all these, it is important to appreciate how false appearances are commonly used among humans and their social interactions.
In Jane Austen’s Emma, Frank Churchill’s character is filled up with a false reality of himself. He not only pretends to be a different person with different personal preferences, he does it masterly. In order to safeguard his relationship with Jane Fairfax, Churchill displays a playful and provocative character with other females, specifically with Emma with whom he spends valuable ‘flirting’ time. The power of his deception is such that even Jane Fairfax, knowledgeable of his love for her, doubts his real intentions further on in the novel. In a private conversation between Frank and Jane, the reader is able to tell how Jane Fairfax’s has been affected by his pristine performance. This is appreciated in the novel with the quote “Jane passed between them into the hall, and looked at neither [Frank Churchill nor Mr. Knightley],” (p.325). It basically explains the fact that Jane was conscious of the ‘dangers’ that any interaction with Frank caused but more importantly, she acts coldly with him because she perceives a loss of interest on his behalf. Churchill’s fake appearance in this case is just a sample of how hurtful manipulation of interests can become.
False appearances have positive consequences such as natural defense mechanisms exemplified by wildlife. However, with respect to human relations, they also have devastating consequences that arise from manipulation. The ability to disguise emotions, rather than a physical aspect, is a dangerous and effective tool that is acquired during childhood. False appearances also have varied uses, which range from the desire of maintaining a certain status and respectability to evading personal troubles. They can also go into much more depth due to the human mind’s intrinsic complexity and are therefore not limited to a blog post’s point of view. Furthermore, in literature, Jane Austen has portrayed a perfect example of this concept in her character Frank Churchill, who not only deceives his community, but also fools his own fiancée. His success was so thorough it had unintended consequences. Appearances are a double edged sword which must be dealt with great care, so, are you playing fair?
“Appearance.” Dictionary.com | Free Online Dictionary for English Definitions . N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2011. <http://dictionary.reference.com
Austen, Jane. Emma . London: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.
Here you can see the example of camouflage on a chameleon or a defensive cobra.