By Alexandra Wang
Smiles reflect happiness or laughter. We are all told that we should smile. We are asked why we are not smiling, even by strangers. Why? Because smiles are supposed to be positive. They make people happy. As they say “smiles are contagious.” We are encouraged to do it, so that everyone else will too. But more often than not, we smile even though it does not match our feelings. Why do we usually comply with them despite how we feel? To please others.
Gwynplaine is the protagonist of Victor Hugo’s novel, The Man Who Laughs (1869.) King James II condemns Gwynplaine to look like he is laughing all the time as revenge for his father’s betrayal. Gwynplaine will always smile, despite how he feels. He just looks like he is laughing even more, whenever he cries.
Image retrieved from Wikipedia Commons. Frontispiece (vol. II) by Francois Flameng for Victor Hugo’s novel The Man Who Laughs, International Limited Edition, published by Estes and Lauriat in 1869. Caption: At the Green Box.
The Man Who Laughs Movie Poster. Image courtesy Universal Pictures.
None of us are like Gwynplaine. We can frown if we want to right? Or can we?
Gwynplaine syndrome: One smiling despite how he or she really feels.
Notice: The term, “Gwynplaine Syndrome” was coined by Alexandra Wang. Please credit her, if you use it in an academic resource.
Copyright by Alexandra Wang. 2019. All rights reserved.