Here is my analysis for "Miss U.S.A. Emma Knight". The first paragraph of this essay explains the characters and characterizations, the second explains the plot and conflict and the last paragraph explains the setting of the story which is divided into three: place, time, and social (social itself is also divided into three:culture, tradition, value). The bolded sentences are the points of the paragraph.
After reading this Studs Terkel's literary work, I got some conclusions. The main and only character mentioned in this story is Emma Knight. Emma is a woman who is called a former of beauty queen because she was once a real beauty queen whom almost most of American girls dying to be. In this story, she retells her journey of being Miss U.S.A.; the reflection of woman perfection. Her experience of being a beauty queen is unique and inspiring. Before being crowned as Miss U.S.A., she was an actress and a model for commercials, until she walked in the beauty pageant, won the competition of Miss Illinois and it brought her to the upmost step in her life. The whole story only talks about her life and the ups and downs of being a part of American Dream. She shows two sides of her personality in this story; good and bad. This is the reason why I can say that she's included in round character. She is such unexcited and 'without the establishment' woman. She just went with the flow when she was offered to be a model then to join the beauty contest (the first beauty contest was the competition to fight over the Miss Illinois title and the second is Miss U.S.A.), fortunately she kept being the winner until finally she reached her glory to be the real reflection of beauty. Who knows if it was because of her luck or her real talent? She even laughed when she was told that she won the Miss U.S.A. contest, she didn't cry like her predecessors. It seems like she had no willingness to against the current although she didn't even like it -even more like she hated it-. In the other side, she is smart too. She could complete her education in theUniversity of Colorado only in three years and a half. Normally it takes four years, and it's not even an easy thing to be admitted as a student by that University, yeah, she was genius. It makes us consider again that it wasn't a luck that she became Miss U.S.A., she had the talent too. Most of people, especially girls in America or in another part of this world, think being Miss U.S.A. is the greatest thing because everyone will be amazed by your talent, smartness, and beautifulness. Everyone will look at you like you are the prettiest girl over this universe. It becomes a big dream for them. Emma doesn't think she would agree with it, she thinks it's just a fantasy. She is the one who had been through that silly dream and she is also the one who was thrown away when she already spent her term of being a beauty queen. "Nobody gives a damn about the old one" she said. She thinks you can never be yourself once you are their property. You are supposed to live your life in their way so that the world will look at you as perfect as a Goddess.
Emma is also an indifferent and a brave woman. She has a critical thinking, I suppose. It's shown when she gave a speech in Washington, D.C. She wasn't afraid of them who had high incumbency in the White House. Over all, although she looks like have no passion to be a beauty queen, she was liable with her responsibility. She wasn't playing around with her title. It's proven when she had to do public-speaking, she didn't want a ghost writer. She wanted to write it herself. It reflects her independency and professionalism.
This narrative text uses ‘recount’ storyline. The narrator tells about her experience and the crucial moments in her life started when she was twenty-two. When she was a child, she used to sit around to watch Miss America and she thought it was exciting. She thought the perfect girl she watched on TV was glamorous and fun. Then finally she reached her time to be a real girl in a real world, she didn't think she could make a stand among the competitions. She became an ordinary girl when she was a teenager. She avoided being a member of a group because she felt intimidated by the amount of competition females were supposed to go through each other. She wasn't confidence enough with her physically look. She felt awkward and ugly. Then, the fate said different and one simple thing had changed it all. Gotcha! She had everything in her hand although she didn’t even want all of those things given to her. She kept going on, doing her job responsibly. The climax of her journey of being Miss U.S.A. is the days when she couldn't be herself. She lived her life in the way people wanted her to be. Let's take an example; the incident happened when she delivered a controversial speech against the government in Washington, D.C. She just revealed her idea because she didn’t agree with the issuespread out to public. She thought; we complain about crisis energy when we spend our time wasting it for nothing. She was still brave to face anything in front of her. Her rigidity took its action. The moment when she failed in the Miss Universe beauty pageant -she ran to be the second- didn’t even disappoint her at all because in the fact she wasn’t ambitious to win it. Miss Philippines was the winner of this world hugest beauty pageant which was held in Greece. Then at last, she felt relief that she had to put off her crown and give it to her successors, although it upset her that she was just thrown away. She was right when she said nobody cares about the old one. In addition, she still couldn’t stand being called a former beauty queen.
The conflicts came to past in this story are included in either 'man vs society' or 'man vs himself'. Why this story can be classified as 'man vs society' is because the main character in this story whose name's Emma, is against the paradigm in the society. As what has been mentioned in paragraph one, being Miss U.S.A. is what all of young girls dying to be. They want to be disguised as a perfect girl by the world. Meanwhile Emma thinks, it just needs t and a -tits and ass- to be Miss U.S.A. She thinks no need talent as long as you have a good appearance which can attract attention and make girls out there jealous. She kept walking on though. She kept living her life to be a beauty queen because this was the thing that was already stuck on her. There's a proverb to depict it: "You're already drowned deep, why don't you just swim and feel the water?"
Further, the reason this story can be classified as 'man vs himself' is; Emma Knight couldn't satisfy her conscience. Deep in her heart, she wanted to escape from the situation she had entered but she couldn't. There was a mind-struggling between her and herself. It sure caused confusion. She had no other choice. This story -in my opinion- is also classified as 'avoidance vs avoidance'. We can know it from reading the story right away. She doesn't express what she likes from being a beauty queen. She only mentioned her complains and critical thoughts which make us gain the negative side of being a beauty queen. Being a reflection of The American Dream is not her real dream, actually. Everything came in sudden and she was stuck. There was no time to take a rest, there were a bunch of activities to make her more like a mirror of successfulness. She was confronted with a lot of options which she hated but she couldn't step back because she had already been too far. Once again, there was no other choice except going on and accomplish it as soon as possible so that she could be free from all of that pressure.
This story takes place in The United States, just like in; Decatur and Washington D.C. She also visited Greece to attend the Miss Universe beauty contest. She told this story in 1973 when her age was twenty-nine years. She started her career as a model and finally became an 'important person' for the society in 1968 through 71'. She went to the University of Colorado only for three years and a half. She was once a shadow of the definition of beautifulness and perfection for people. American culture is very condensed in this story. This culture consists of the way of thinking, custom, wont, differential and tradition of the people. There's a designation in America which is called The American Dream; the meaning is the hope of a better, richer, happier life where all would be free to develop to their own potential. This term was first coined by historian James Truslow Adams in his book. The Epic of America, 1931. This designation turned to be a big dream for almost all of the Americans. It gives spirit and passion for them to change their fortune. This fortune becomes mischaracterized, they think happiness and successfulness is only about richness and perfection of physically. They size up that they can only be happy if they have money, etc. In America that era -maybe until now- people to reach success need a hard work and they need an embodiment to incarnate their dream. Miss U.S.A. is the conformation of this so-called The American Dream, and Emma was the part of it. She was forced to be perfect without paying attention to her feeling. This was the risk anyway. Emma already jumped down in this field, she couldn't go back. People saw her as a winner that not all of people could be; this was because there was a really hard rivalry to reach this glory. Actually not only Emma who had this burden and compulsion, so did her predecessors and successors. Miss U.S.A. is the easiest model for the dream of living well.
The moral value we can learn from this story is that we have to be thankful for everything we get. No matter if we don't even want them, we've got to be grateful. Because we never know the amount of people out there who want to be like us. Emma Knight is an example for this case. She complained about her life of being a beauty queen, whereas her life was perfect for most of people. Another moral value is that we must fight for our dreams and reach it so we can be helpful for ourselves, also for the people and the nation.
Those are the three paragraphs which I guess already describe enough the content of this short story. There are a lot of things to learn and it depends on our individual opinion to judge and comprehend it to the real life. Analyzing is not just about understanding a literary work, but also taking the meaning of life from it.
Analyzed by: @Annisawdyf