The Fat girl is one of the most popular short stories by Andres Dubus. It is a story of a young girl Louise and her search of herself, her love, identity and self-acceptance. She was in conflict with herself and the society because of her weight. In facts, her character is the embodiment of the girls of the modern society who suffer because of the extra weight.
The story gained a great popularity as it depicts the urgent problem that many people face and raise an important question: Should people try to be themselves or be the ones the society wants them to be.
In this paper, we will try to answer this question. We will focus on the issue of self-identity. Thus, we will analyze the story to answer a question: was it a right decision for Louise to lose weight and what consequences of this decision? Thus, on the one hand, she got thinner and it gave her many possibilities: to marry, to do things she never did before like swimming in the pool and wear nice clothes. On the other hand, she lost herself and could not enjoy her favorite food feeling hungry all the time.
In order to support the idea that losing weight was a right decision, we have to provide several convincing evidences. First of all, she became attractive and gained the approval of her mother who was never satisfied with the appearance of her daughter and encourage her to lose weight:
“For days her relatives and acquaintances congratulated her, and the applause in their eyes lasted the entire summer, and she loved their eyes, and swim in the country club pool, the first time she had done this since she was a child”. (Dubus, 172)
Thus, Louise’s self-appraisal rose and she felt another person, a better person. A young woman became the one her friend and family wanted to see her. She liked the way people treated her, and she felt more self-confident. Finally, she was the way her friends were. She was slim, attractive and she could lead a “normal” life.
Her new appearance gave her a possibility to get married, though she thought that she would never do this because she was not pretty and not attractive, “Richard was the first man outside her family to kiss her barbecue she was sixteen” (Dubus 172). It was an unattainable dream for her.
First of all, because of the words of her mother when the girl was nine, “in five years, you’ll be in high school and if you’re fat, the boys won’t like you” (Dubus 164). But now, when she was slim and beauty, she could leave the thoughts about unsuccessful relations with boys. She had a beautiful wedding, handsome husband, awesome honeymoon and finally a child.
As opposed to “all the benefits” of getting thinner, there are considerable disadvantages of it. First of all, it is really hard, both physically and psychologically. The girl says about this time, “during her afternoon classes, she was nervous and tense, and she chewed her pencil and tapped her heels on the floor and tightened her calves” (Dubus 169). Moreover, all she could remember about her college years is her hunger and “meals in her room”. She was obsessed with the numbers she saw on the scales and could not think about anything.
But the most serious problem that occurred during her dieting is that the girl lost herself, “she felt that somehow she had lost more than pounds of fat; that some time during her dieting she had lost herself too” (Dubus 171). It goes without saying that appearance influences the psychological state of the individual. In case of Louise, it had very bad consequences. First of all:
“There were times, with her friends, or with Richard, or alone in the house, when she was suddenly assaulted by the feeling that she had taken the wrong train and arrived at a place where no one knew her, and where she ought not to be” (Dubus 173).
This resulted in depression and ruined the life she was building for so long. She was about to lose her husband and friend, she lost the approval of her mother. It seemed as if all people around her loved not real Louise, but the thing girl in her body. Finally, she gave up and returned to her life and her habits.
Thus, it is hard to say whether fat people should try to get thinner by all means. Leading a healthy lifestyle is important. But the example of obsession in the text provides that one should think about himself first of all. Every person is an individual, and we should accept ourselves as we are.
It is the most convincing point of view that we can see in the message of the story. Louise lost her identity. In fact, she was never happy because she could not be the one she was. The pressure from the side of her mothers and the idea that fat people cannot be attractive and pretty made her do things that made her life unhappy.
Dubus, Andre. “The Fat Girl.” The Tyranny of the Normal: An Anthology. Ed. Carol C. Donley. Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1996. 164 – 178. Print.