Performed Identity: A Means To An End

1446 words - 6 pages

Performed Identities: A Means to an End
Performed identities exist primarily due to the fact that people are simply unable to attain or achieve a certain power, wealth, or escape through a natural means within their true identity. These performed identities allow people to accomplish the difficult task of cutting through social boundaries. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story, “The Man with the Twisted Lip”, Neville St. Clair skips over social boundaries as a middle-class, ex-reporter living the performed identity as a rich upper-class gentleman. In his daily routine, St. Clair leaves behind his family and the norms of an upper class life each morning to take on a detestable alter-identity as Hugh Boone, a beggar and match salesman. Often times in the presence of a single performed identity, a second may be created in response to the first. St. Clair's first, very private performed identity is that of Boone the beggar, which in turn leads him to the accidental creation of St. Clair, the very public English gentleman. While St. Clair skips up over social boundaries between middle and upper-class, he must then leap down over the boundaries from his upper class lifestyle to gain the wealth only made possible with makeup and the ragged clothing of Boone.

At first glance, it appears that St. Clair has only one performed identity, that of Boone the beggar, however upon further examination one can observe that there is another performed identity, that of St. Clair the upper-class businessman. St. Clair, in his natural identity as a reporter is caught in the middle between these two polar extreme identities. St. Clair worked as a reporter for the evening paper in London for which he was assigned to write on begging in the metropolis. He then dressed the part in order to write the articles and took on the identity as Boone the beggar. “I painted my face, and to make myself look as pitiable as possible I made a good scar and fixed one side of my lip in a twist by the aid of a small slip of flesh-coloured plaster. Then with a red head of hair, and an appropriate dress, I took my station in the business part of the city” (1). It was in the early stages of this experiment that St. Clair realized the advantages in having a secret performed identity. St. Clair was able to gain from this identity something that could not have been accomplished while holding on to his true nature, that of wealth and power. “For seven hours I plied my trade...I found to my surprise that I had received no less than 26s. 4d” (2). St. Clair considered his options which ended in him quitting his job as a reporter and taking on the fulltime position and Boone. “It was a long fight between my pride and the money, but the dollars won at last” (3). St. Clair traded his identity during the daytime hours for that of Boone the beggar. He found that he was able to make the same amount of money in one day becoming Boone as he was in one week as a reporter. “Well, very soon I found...

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