A number of excerpts describe President Lincoln’s physical appearance, contradicting one another regarding the color of his eyes and whether or not he’s ugly. Some find him extraordinarily homely with a disconcertingly arrayed face, whereas others see his features as captivating and full of “good humor.” One writer states: “Oh, the pathos of it!—haggard, drawn into fixed lines of unutterable sadness, with a look of loneliness, as of a soul whose depth of sorrow and bitterness no human sympathy could ever reach. The impression I carried away was that I had seen, not so much the President of the United States, as the saddest man in the world .”
Saunders highlights the divisive spirit ravaging the country by showing that people can’t even agree about whether or not Lincoln is ugly. In doing so, Saunders suggests that opinion and subjectivity are unstable things upon which to build an argument—one person thinks Lincoln is ugly, another does not; this, it seems, is hardly worth fighting over, and yet the nation finds itself incapable of letting its various differences alone. In turn, Saunders provides readers with yet another analog to the divisive mentalities fueling the Civil War. After all, if Americans are wont to fight over something as inconsequential as the president’s physical appearance, it’s unlikely they’ll behave peacefully when it comes to issues of secession and slavery.