Why does the author describe the girl's appearance in such detail in "The Cold Equations"?

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junebug614 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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"The Cold Equations" is told from a third person limited point of view. This means that it is not told from the perspective of the man or the girl on the spacecraft; instead, it is told from a third person perspective, as if someone were watching this entire situation play out and recounting it. The "limited" aspect of this point of view means that we as the reader get the thoughts and feelings of only some of the characters--in this case the man, Barton. As the reader, we do not hear any of the internal thoughts of the young girl. We know only what she states aloud and the descriptions that Barton gives of her. This is why the author chooses to describe her so thoroughly. As readers, we can learn a lot about her personality and even her feelings from her physical description. For example, when she is first discovered, Barton notices the sweet scent of her perfume, her little white sandals, her brown curly hair, and the way her eyes look up at him innocently. All these details give us more information about the girl since we are unaware of her thoughts throughout the story: they tell us that she is young, innocent, unaware--all information we were able to deduce on our own through the description Barton provides. Another example comes later when she is aware of the gravity of the situation. Barton notices, "Some of the color had come back to her face and the lipstick no longer stood out so vividly red." This detail tells us that, for a while, her face was very white--probably from shock. All of these details come together to help us as readers gain a more rounded view of the girl since we are unaware of her thoughts and feelings throughout the story. 

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