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The Face Is an Index of Character

In: English and Literature

Submitted By haiderxaidi
Words 435
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A man’s face, if we can read I aright, is generally an index to his character. We can tell what sort of man he is by the expression of his countenance, as we can tell the species of a shellfish by its shell; for, as a shell fish secrets its shell so the soul secrets its physical face. It is we ourselves who make our faces; and we make them gradually and unconsciously and to express our inner character. Character is simply the sum total of confirmed habits; and as a habit is formed, it slowly writes its characteristic marks on the face, and gives its own look to the eyes. It is harder to read character in the faces of young unformed children than in the faces of grown up men and women though one can often detect meanness or frankness even in the face of child; but the older people get, and the more fixed their habits, the easier it becomes to tell what sort of people they are, from their faces.

There are certain kinds of faces which almost anyone can read. The character is written in capitals on the face. You cannot mistake the red and bloated face of the drunkard, the pride in the face of the arrogant, the crafty look in the eyes of the sneak. But it takes a trained and careful observer to read some faces, for some clever people can make their faces like masks to hide their real selves. The word “hypocrite” literally means actor and as an actor can make up his face so as to appear on the stage a different person, so can a hypocrite. A false hearted man may have an apparently frank and open face; a cruel man may wear a deceptively kindly smile; a rogue may look very honest sight. As a Hamlet says, “A man may smile and smile, and be a villain.” I remember once being introduced to an old gentleman of most benign aspect, who appeared to be a benevolent and almost saintly old man; yet I knew he had been guilty of several ruthless and deliberate crimes!
But the face has always something that will betray such hypocrites to an acute observer; especially in the most expressive features the eyes and the mouth. A look in the eyes, the way in which he shapes his mouth, may betray the hidden meanness, cruelty, craftiness or selfishness that lurk behind the friendly smile and the frank look. Certain it is that dishonesty, lust and cruelty, honesty, purity and kindness, all leave indelible marks on the face.

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