The most obvious symbol in Cyrano de Bergerac is the title character’s enormous nose. Cyrano de Bergerac is talented, witty, and good in a fight, but because he has an abnormally large nose, he’s unable to win himself any female admirers. On one level Cyrano’s nose is an argument against the notion that a beautiful mind goes with a beautiful face. Intelligence, virtue, and wisdom have no real correlation with physical features—a fact that seems obvious, but is also easy to forget. As another example of this idea, Christian, who is Cyrano’s rival for the beautiful Roxane, is a young, handsome man, but he’s also foolish and clumsy. Thus Cyrano’s nose is a symbol of the arbitrariness of the idea of “beauty” in a human face, and also of the shallowness of many human relationships, which focus too much on physical appearance and disregard the mind and the spirit.
This symbol goes a bit deeper as well, however, as Cyrano himself has a complex relationship with his nose. On one hand, he feels insecure about it and thinks that women consider him hideous, so he doesn’t even try to pursue the woman he loves—Roxane—because he assumes she would be disgusted by his appearance. This is a mistake based on Cyrano’s low self-esteem regarding his nose, because it seems abundantly clear that Roxane is an intelligent, complex individual who could easily love someone for other qualities than physical beauty (indeed, she outright rejects the handsome Christian when he is awkward and dull in their first encounter). In some way, Cyrano makes his nose into a bigger obstacle to his happiness than it otherwise might be. In matters of pride and “panache,” however, Cyrano seems to flaunt his nose and use it as a point of contention by which he can prove his wit and fighting skill. When Valvert clumsily insults the nose, Cyrano doesn’t seem actually hurt at all, but rather pounces on this opportunity to mock Valvert for his feeble insult and thus display his own verbal virtuosity. Most people know not to mention Cyrano’s nose, as he is “sensitive” about, but he is also very publicly and even proudly sensitive about it. Ultimately Cyrano’s nose is thus a complicated symbol that plays several roles in displaying how physical features affect a person’s inner life and relationship to the world.