Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces

Faces Symbol Icon

The outward appearance of faces in this novel generally corresponds to the characters’ moral essences. Psyche’s moral perfection is reflected in her stunningly beautiful face. Orual’s face, on the other hand, is horribly ugly, as her moral tendencies also prove to be. Furthermore, when she sees the face of Ungit on herself, she begins to realize that it shows she has lived a life of devouring the people around her for her own benefit. At the same time, it’s difficult to say whether the women’s essential characters exist from birth or result from the responses to their physical appearances. Psyche has always been adored for her beauty, so she has no reason to hate those around her or to seek love as jealously as Orual does. Orual, on the other hand, has always been told that she’s too ugly to love, and that she’ll never be able to marry. This undoubtedly makes her bitter against the world and leads her to cling destructively to those who do love her, filling with jealousy whenever she perceives any threat to that love. Thus, the women’s faces both influence and reflect their true moral character.

Additionally, the god’s refusal to allow Psyche to see his face acts as a test of her loyalty. In Christianity, to see the face of God is portrayed as an intensely religious and euphoric experience. Orual forces Psyche to disrespect the sacredness of this act, as Psyche tries to see the god’s face through deception. Faces, then, can be seen as sacred, and if the essence of a person is represented by their face, that essence, too, is sacred.

Orual ultimately realizes that the gods cannot “meet us face to face till we have faces” (294), implying that the having a face includes being conscious of one’s entire self, both good and bad, and understanding one’s motives and the results of one’s actions. Until then, the gods will remain silent, unwilling to waste time trying to make mortals understand what they’re willfully blind to.

Faces Quotes in Till We Have Faces

The Till We Have Faces quotes below all refer to the symbol of Faces. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition of Till We Have Faces published in 2012.
Part 1: Chapter 9 Quotes

While I was in there, one of the other soldiers... came into the passage and said something to Bardia. Bardia replied, I couldn’t hear what. Then he spoke louder: “Why, yes, it’s a pity about her face. But she’s a brave girl and honest. If a man was blind and she weren’t the King’s daughter, she’d make him a good wife.” And that is the nearest thing to a love-speech that was ever made me.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Bardia
Related Symbols: Faces
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Part 1: Chapter 20 Quotes

My second strength lay in my veil.... [A]s years passed and there were fewer in the city... who remembered my face, the wildest stories got about as to what that veil hid.... Some said... that it was frightful beyond endurance; a pig’s, bear’s, cat’s or elephant’s face. The best story was that I had no face at all; if you stripped off my veil you’d find emptiness. But another sort... said that I wore a veil because I was of a beauty so dazzling that if I let it be seen all men in the world would run mad; or else that Ungit was jealous of my beauty and had promised to blast me if I went bareface. The upshot of all this nonsense was that I became something very mysterious and awful.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Veil, Faces, Ungit
Page Number: 228-29
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Part 2: Chapter 4 Quotes

The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered.... When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Faces
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Faces Symbol Timeline in Till We Have Faces

The timeline below shows where the symbol Faces appears in Till We Have Faces. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 1
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...will wear veils, and the King assures him that they will, particularly to hide Orual’s face. Finally, Orual understands that she is ugly. (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 3
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...trouble, and commands them to never let her out of their sight, saying that Orual’s face will surely scare all men away. Forced to stay with Orual and the Fox, Redival... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 4
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...it. The Priest has two temple girls with him, who wear wigs and have their faces painted. They accompany him into the palace, and the King bars the doors behind them.... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 8
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...it’s worse when she does. She’s been made to look like a temple girl, with face paint and a wig. Her eyes look strange. Orual almost admires the gods’ talent for... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 10
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...mind due to a drug she had been made to drink. The paint on her face was stiff, so she hardly felt it was her own face, or herself being sacrificed.... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...agrees, but when Orual asks if it’s far away, Psyche is confused. Orual likens her face to that of a child who mistakes a stranger for its mother. Both women become... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 11
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...in darkness. She’s forbidden to bring light into their bedchamber because she can’t see his face or know his name. Orual sees joy in her eyes and insists that Psyche is... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 12
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...Psyche’s word about her lover. When Orual asks what sort of lover would keep his face hidden, Bardia admits that it must be something awful, also pointing out that it’s called... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 14
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...crosses the river and calls for Psyche, who comes immediately. The sisters look like two faces of love—Psyche joyful, Orual the bearer of pain. Psyche points out that she correctly predicted... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...he’s the god of the Mountain. Orual asks what kind of god would keep his face hidden. Nothing that is beautiful or honest hides, she says, so Psyche must be the... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
...to prove she means what she says. Psyche must swear to look at her husband’s face that very night, or else Orual will kill Psyche and then herself. (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
...he will forgive her. Orual points out that he won’t know Psyche has seen his face. Psyche looks at her scornfully, and Orual thinks that everything about her has come from... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 15
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
...it and covers it. Then she’ll see it again when Psyche looks at her husband’s face. She anticipates that Psyche will then come to her in distress, and she’ll comfort her. (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...it is a humanlike figure, vague in her memory. She can only look at the face for a moment, because its beauty is too overpowering. He looks at her with complete... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 16
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
That night, Orual decides to veil her face forever. When she was a child, she didn’t realize she was ugly. For a while... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...fear him anymore after seeing the god. She feels powerful because she can see his face, but he can’t see hers. When he asks whether she’s opposing him, she admits that... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 19
Self-understanding Theme Icon
...If it lasts too long, his strength might tire her out. Then she sees his face change, and she doesn’t understand why; it’s the look of someone who knows he’s about... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...On the ride back to the palace, Trunia begs her to let him see her face, and, as this kind of attention is so unknown to her, she enjoys it immensely.... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 20
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...to her ugliness). Her strength also comes from her veil. When people can’t see her face, they find her voice beautiful. As fewer people remember ever seeing her face, they begin... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 21
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...The altar holds a wooden statue of a woman with a black veil over her face. The Queen likes this much better than the house of Ungit. A priest appears and... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...came to her only in darkness. The priest claims that the god couldn’t show his face because his mother would be angry with him for marrying her enemy, which the Queen... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 1
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...preposterous that the Queen pulls off her veil, asking whether Ansit is jealous of her face. Ansit stares at her, but not in fear of her face. She begins to cry... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
However, their sympathy doesn’t last long. The Queen puts her veil back on and Ansit’s face hardens again. The Queen says Ansit has had her revenge by calling her Bardia’s murderer.... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 2
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...pushed herself out of the earth at the beginning of the world. She has no face, but that means that the lumps of the rock form countless faces. Now blood has... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...hang in the palace. She tries to get away, but fails. In the mirror, her face looks like the face of Ungit that she saw that day in the temple. The... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 3
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...able to change her soul any more than she was able to change her ugly face. Orual thinks that the gods won’t love anyone unless they have a naturally beautiful soul.... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 4
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...for them to try when humans don’t speak their own truths. They don’t even have faces that the gods can meet. (full context)