Why does the author say that looking at the cells of a flower under the microscope takes away the very beauty of the flowers?   I would like to have a detailed explanation.  

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his autobiographical work titled My Life and Hard Times, James Thurber humorously describes his inability to see the cell structures of plants while trying to view those structures with a microscope in his botany class. Thurber's professor cannot believe or accept the claim that Thurber genuinely cannot see the cell structures. The professor becomes increasingly frustrated and tries to make numerous adjustments in Thurber's microscope so that Thurber will finally be able to see the cells.

Thurber willingly concedes that the structures of flower cells may indeed be "interesting," but he simply remains unable, because of his poor eyesight, to see those structures. Finally the following exchange occurs, with Thurber speaking first:

"It takes away the beauty of the flowers anyway," I used to tell him. "We are not concerned with beauty in this class," he would say.

This is the extent of the discussion about the beauty of flowers in the "University Days" chapter of My Life and Hard Times. Thurber implies that to appreciate the beauty of the flowers depends on seeing them whole, not on seeing merely microscopic parts of them. He does not, however, insist upon this position. Rather, as in much of this chapter, he is passive and somewhat stoic. He does not argue with his professor about the value of beauty; he merely mentions the topic and then lets it drop, which is typical of his personality throughout this section of his book. The things that matter to many of his professors simply do not matter to Thurber, not so much because he is rebellious as because he is humorously untalented and ill-equipped to be the kind of student his professors often want him to be. Rather than trying in inspire Thurber, they more often try to force him to behave as they want him to behave.