Online Journal 7: Analysis of the Short Story ‘Eye
Candy’.

Gaia Mauricio
7 min readJan 18, 2021

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“Eye Candy” is probably one of the most entertaining and amusing short stories I’ve ever read. An amicable way to tackle a character study is the best way I can condense my description on its thoroughly captivating writing style. The tone of the writing oozes personality rather than just a rundown of Maya’s ponderings. The text is also a well-appreciated break from the conventional narrative structure of “getting from A to B.” Instead, it lends itself to what I can only describe as an indie movie plotline rather than a regular old hero’s journey. The text is a genuine moment in time, fleshing out its characters through pure observation rather than throwing things at them to react to. It really is just like talking with a cheeky friend with no filter, after all these are Maya’s inner thoughts. It is no wonder that this text specifically lends itself well to character and conflict analysis.

Maya opens the story by diving straight into how she views the restaurant she’s in, namely through the types of patrons she observes. This clued me into the first character trait that should be noted about her: highly observant. A better way to say it, however, would be that she comes off as hypersensitive to her surroundings. Leaving no stone unturned, she takes in everything around her. This quality of hers is shown to be a byproduct of her outlook on life as we, the readers, start taking in her thoughts on what she is so keenly observing. From the cackling women being labeled as likely-to-be wives of wealthy diplomats, to the haughty “witch” lady, as Maya so eloquently puts it, the labels given to these fellow patrons shows Maya to be a judgmental person. It also comes to light that she comes off as insecure, or self-conscious at the very least, when it comes to viewing others. She constantly compares her life to theirs, her own wrinkles to theirs, even how she moves seems to be dictated by competing with the other women at the restaurant.

Towards the end of the story, it was easy to see how this all came to reveal the main problem and conflict within the character. Maya constantly ends up reminiscing on her past years, in a longing way I might add, whenever she zeroes in on a specific flaw she sees in the other women around her. The witch with her westernized laugh and young, handsome, husband gets on her nerves constantly, but the external conflict Maya experiences between herself and the witch is not what this story is about. This story’s conflict is Man vs. Himself, or in more specific terms, Maya’s expectations vs. her reality. Maya’s inner monologue reeks of self-doubt, all cause by her perceptions of how those around her see her. She immediately deems other women, especially of her age and standing, to be adversaries in that they get on her nerves, yet they are also a standard to be met through Maya’s constant competing with them to be the more “ideal” woman. Maya thinks she must have the most “ideal” marriage, the most “ideal” manners, and whatnot. These terms are never defined by Maya herself, but by the women around her whom she is annoyed by. This initial duality between hating and wanting to please those around her is common in most depiction of insecurity, however I am drawn to appreciate the other internal conflict she experiences. This is referring to her conflict of meeting her own expectations, and what is actually her reality. By adhering to the perceived standards of others and society in general, Maya created a life that she deemed “ideal” when compared to those around her. The burning question for her then is “Why is it not as I imagined?” It sounds strange to wonder why something created with purely others in mind is not what the creator themselves expected to us readers, but the entire conflict centers on the fact that Maya herself cannot realize how odd her dilemma is because she has made it so that the evaluation of her life isn’t hers to make. It is for the other wives in the restaurant to decide whether or not Maya is an accomplished woman or not, and this is what causes her to feel conflicted. She can no longer say if all the choices she’s made in life were made because she is society’s perfect woman, or because she has been pretending her whole life to her own expense. On one hand, she has achieved the life she strived for, yet on the other hand, she no longer knows why she was striving for it in the first place if she still feels trapped by the expectations of others.

This initial conflict is what jumped out to me first. It took me a while before really interpreting what I feel to be the problem Maya faces. Maybe that’s fitting, seeing as this story plays on the idea of not being aware of one’s own blunders holding them back in life, deluding oneself into a feeling of security that stems from insecurity. The problem Maya faces would have to be herself, vaguely speaking. Specifically, she holds her own self back from the ideal state of mind she craves by reverting to her crutch of superficial competition among her fellow women. Her problem stems from her need for approval, and how it conflicts with her disgust of surrendering to herself that she has not been living her own life at all. Her entire mindset is the problem here, not her wrinkles, not the ladies, not the witch, and not Richie’s weight gain.

The characterization of Maya was well-explored in a way that fits its real-life moral. By this, I mean that we as readers only get a glimpse into her psyche and her past, as well as her physical appearance, whenever she is comparing herself to be better, or admonishing those around for simply existing the way they do. This embellishes her character trait of being bound by those around her. Her only definition comes from how she outwardly perceives herself in the eyes of society. She even only describes her wrinkles on her face in detail when she is concerned about how she looks in age compared to the others. She seems to remain a flat character, what with how deep she is into her own deluded version of security. Her flat character type is a reinforcement of how weak her own security really is. She is driven by confirmation bias at this point, looking for any and all ways to justify to herself that her life is correct and fulfilling and everything she thought it’d be despite the obvious signs of her own dissatisfaction. If anything came across her did not end up fitting into her delusion, she’d likely fall apart. Her views do not change to accommodate miscalculations, she changes what she sees around her into things that backup her false sense of superiority. She doesn’t know any of these people, yet she already is scolding them mentally and patting herself on the back as much as she can. Changes in her worldview likely scare her, her flat character arc symbolizing just that. It cannot be denied, however, that her own reminiscing seems to be tinged with sorrow and regret, at least somewhat. When Richie comes, for all the amazing and romantic images she has described to the reader about her husband in comparison to the witch and her boytoy, her meeting with Richie just has her looking at his weight and his mediocrity. It’s as if she can no longer see anything else; as if she can no longer delude herself from what it right in front of her. However, she remains a flat character, to me at least, because she still doesn’t want the delusion to end, desperately kissing her husband right in front of everyone despite being a self-proclaimed secure woman who has no more need to show off her “ideal” relationship to others. The story cuts off with her hearing the witch’s cackle. It isn’t even for her, it might not even be real, yet it rings in her ears more than anything else.

The way I read this story was through somewhat of a feminist approach. I cannot help but connect it to the affect the patriarchal standards of society have affected the way women think, especially amongst themselves. It is a common rhetoric to discuss the male gaze’s origin (men) and its victim (women). This story, on the other hand, lends itself to a less explored, yet equally important aspect of the male gaze: the female perspective. In other words, it asks the question of how exactly the patriarchal standards have invaded the minds of women themselves. It is common to dismiss the reach of the male gaze when the author or the POV character is female herself, but this is the exact mentality that allows these damaging standards to propagate, or even be wrongfully validated. After all, “how can something be patriarchal when a woman herself wrote it?” Look at the way Maya speaks about her own superiority. It is easy to find that it is still linked to the age-old limiting expectations laid out for women: marriage and motherhood. These values are far from inherently wrong, and never will be. They are, however, taken as standards instead of personal values under the patriarchal society. This is what encourages Maya to compare herself, to see if she is “above standard” in any way, all according to things expected of her by a male-dominated norm. Smaller details clue us into how her own perspective is still adhering to that of internalized misogyny. Take, for example, the way she describes everyone as a type of ‘wife.’ She assumes the group of women must be wives of wealthy diplomats to behave the way they do and be in such an expensive restaurant. She immediately takes notice of the witch’s husband and his demeanor compared to hers, assessing their marriage first and foremost. All her memories that she assures herself with are with that of her husband and children, to be compared of course to those around her. This issue of women being pitted against each other because of unattainable standards and the notion of being “the most desirable wife” is something straight out of a 1950’s housewife manual. This is what internalized misogyny can do, and the way that this is from a woman’s perspective does not exempt it from being an example of male gaze in literature.

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Gaia Mauricio

i’m just gonna use this to keep animating gifs for my pfp pls look away