With the Photographer by Stephen Leacock
In With the Photographer by Stephen Leacock we have the theme of insecurity, anger, appearance, confidence, acceptance and control. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed forty year old woman the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Leacock may be exploring the theme of insecurity. The narrator while sitting in the photographer’s studio begins to read some magazines. It is through her reading of the magazines and seeing how other women look that the narrator begins to feel insecure about her appearance. This may be important as Leacock could be suggesting that the narrator is unrealistically comparing herself to professional models. Women who have had make-up applied, proper lighting and clothing prior to their photograph being taken. If anything the magazines make the narrator insecure when the reality is there is no need for her to be. It is also noticeable that the photographer takes a dislike to the narrator’s appearance (her face) judging it too be wrong. This too may be important as it suggests that there is a standard being set by the photographer and that the narrator because of how she physically looks does not meet that standard. Just as there is comparisons being made by the narrator to the women she sees in the magazines. Likewise the photographer is making comparisons or judging the narrator solely on her appearance.
It is also noticeable that the narrator begins to do as she is instructed by the photographer. What should have been a simple process of taking a photograph becomes something of a nightmare for the narrator. If anything the photographer is attempting to change the narrator and mould her image into something that pleases his eye rather than accepting what is real. That being how the narrator actually looks. It is also interesting that at first the narrator agrees with everything that the photographer says and this would further suggest that Leacock is exploring the theme of insecurity. It is as though the narrator lacks the confidence to stand up for herself and tell the photographer that she is unhappy with the route that is being taken by the photographer. However the narrator does begin to become more confident as she begins to realise how ridiculous the photographer’s requests are. It is only after losing her confidence and then regaining it that the narrator ends up standing up for herself.
How confident the narrator becomes is noticeable when she returns to the photographer’s studio the following Saturday. She realises that the photograph that has been taken of her looks nothing like her. This angers the narrator as she was simply looking for a photograph that would show her likeness and nothing more. She accepts that she may not be to everybody’s liking when it comes to her physical appearance but is angered by the changes made by the photographer. He has retouched the photograph so much that the narrator does not recognise herself. If anything many reader might suggest that the photographer is working of a template that he deems acceptable. Unfortunately the photographer’s template is not pleasing to the narrator nor should it be. Without directly saying it to the narrator the photographer by retouching the photograph is suggesting that the narrator does not meet the requirements that he thinks are required on how a woman should look. If anything the photographer is attempting to push his perception of beauty onto the narrator. Something that further angers the narrator. It is as though the narrator is in shock however she does not let go of her anger telling the photographer to keep the photograph.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader realises just how upset the narrator is when she begins to cry. It is as though the narrator knows that she is fighting a losing battle. She has been judged solely by her appearance by the photographer whose job was to simply take a life like photograph. Something because of his belief system in how a woman should look. He was unable to do. It might also be a case that Leacock is suggesting that at the time the story was written women had very little control. At no stage does the narrator persuade the photographer that she just wants a photograph that looks like her. The photographer is more interested in retouching the photograph than listening to the narrator. This may be important as Leacock could be attempting to highlight the fact that women again at the time the story was written. Did not have a voice. In reality the narrator’s tears could be due to the fact that not only is she angry with the photographer but she may also be frustrated. Throughout the story the narrator has been judged by the photographer based solely on her appearance. Which may have been how many women felt at the time. If anything women were treated by men as objects rather than as equals. Something that is clear to the reader by the fact that the photographer retouches the photograph till he sees something that is pleasing to his eye.