The Quest For Identity In American Literature

2294 words - 9 pages

The Quest for Identity in American LiteratureThe quest for identity depends a lot on the emotional, cultural and social stability of an individual. Stability is the ultimate stage of this quest, this is why I believe there is a strong interdependence between the two. One cannot speak of identity without referring to emotional, social and cultural stability. Apart from these three dimensions of the human being, another important aspect of the American identity is the feminine identity.In order to deal with these four aspects, I will refer to several American short stories, as it follows:1. The quest for emotional stability: A White Heron by Sarah Orne JewettThe Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest HemingwayDeath of a Traveling Salesman by Eudora Welty2. The quest for social stability: Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman MelvilleBarn Burning by William FaulknerThat Evening Sun by William Faulkner3. The quest for cultural stability: The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky by Stephen CraneRip Van Winkle by Washington Irving4. The quest for feminine identity: Old Mortality by Katherine Anne Porter1. The quest for emotional stability:"« A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett,"« The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway"« Death of a Traveling Salesman by Eudora WeltyA White Heron, by Sarah Orne Jewett is a story of a girl who attained emotional stability by remaining true to her own values and by refusing to yield to the masculine dominance in a patriarchal world. It is through silence that she remains 'outside history' and thus maintains her place in nature, as opposed to the hunter whose world is 'history', governed by science, language and knowledge.As she accompanies the hunter through the woods in search of the white heron she feels the need to be loved and decides she should help him: "Sylvia still watched the young man with loving admiration. She had never seen anybody so charming and delightful; the woman's heart, asleep in the child, was vaguely thrilled by a dream of love."By choosing to help him she will become part of 'history' / 'civilization', fitting in the patterns of society with the price of losing her true identity. Her emotional state is very uncertain at this point, because she doesn't know what to do. She is placed between nature and civilization and must choose only one of them. The climb up the huge tree is a turning point for her, it represents her initiation to adulthood. When she finally reaches the top she realizes that she is just like the white heron. The communion with nature determines her to remain true to her own values and thus be a part of nature. The few moments when she observed the white heron, are much more stronger, from an emotional point of view, than the time spent together with the hunter. It is on top of the pine tree that she becomes fully aware of her origin and destiny, that is, to remain close to nature and be a part of it. She reaches emotional stability by remaining true to her self.This is not the case...

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