I remember my art history professor throwing a pair of slides up to demonstrate the difference between nude and naked. It was one of those huge seminar classes that we affectionately called art in the dark. Usually class would start, the lights would go out, and half the class fell asleep. This lecture got everyone’s attention.

I don’t recall what images he showed, but Edouard Manet’s, Olympia, is an excellent example of a nude. Edouard Manet’s, Olympia

The girl in, Nude in the water, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, however, is naked.Nude in the water, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

What’s the difference? The attitude and pose. Olympia casually lounges while the other tries to hide herself. The same distinction holds true for the literary arts. Imagine two people walking onto the same beach in identical clothing.

Jane drops her bag next to the lounge chair and pulls off her wrap. Without a pause she slides out of what passes as a bikini. She reclines on the chair, hands resting behind her head. A smile spreads across her face as she watches other sunbathers.

Jackie, her twin, stands nearby, eyes darting up and down the beach. After several minutes she slips out of her clothes. Another pause before the suit comes off. Knees hugged close, she sits staring at the edge of the chair. She bites her lower lip as another beach goer walks by.

So which of these two is naked and which is nude? Jane is relaxed and confident, simply without clothes. She is nude. Jackie is uncomfortable and insecure. Even with her clothes one she feels naked and exposed.

Now go look at the characters in your stories. Are they naked or nude?

About A. L. Kaplan

I am a writer, artist, and parent.
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  1. Sharmishtha says:

    great way of comparing both situation!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. says:

    I like your discussion–the difference lies in the consciousness of the subject.


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