The Woman Warrior and The Interesting Narrative
In both The Woman Warrior and The Interesting Narrative, the authors inspect the issue of one’s cultural identity by way of the telling of their own story, and how it has affected them. By telling their stories as persons who have emerged themselves into a new culture, but at the same retained vestiges of the old, Olaudah Equiano and Maxine Kingston are exemplifying a duality in cultural identity, that is often times lost.
Before continuing, though, it is important to clarify the definition of “cultural identity,” at least for this paper. One’s cultural identity is the way one sees oneself in terms of the cultures and societies that they have come from. This perception is influenced by many factors, including the experiences within the cultures, either personal or passed on, the time exposed to the culture, and personal choice. These factors combine to determine how one views one’s own culture. It is important to realize that there is also a societal cultural identity. This different identity, which cannot be fully explored in either The Interesting Narrative or The Woman Warrior, is the way in which a society views itself, and other societies view it. The two narrators are not able to explore this separate identity because they only represent one view within their respective cultures, not the sum, and thus not the cultural identity.
Contributing to this cultural identity has been experiences in both their new and their old cultures. For someone such as Equiano, who was removed from his native culture at an early age without having made a significant personal connection, this makes up a less significant part of their cultural identity than for Kingston, who has the benefit of having her mother as a connection to her “original” culture. This personal connection to the “native” culture is an important part to any cultural identity, because it provides a means of introspection, an ability to determine one’s perception of oneself. The ability to perceive oneself is important because it permits one to look at and choose to discard or retain parts of one’s various cultures into one’s personal cultural identity.
However, in other aspects, Equiano is able to better explore portions of his cultural identity, because he has made a direct personal connection to the culture. In this case, it is the slave culture that he was forced into. Because of the intense experiences he has within this culture, it plays a large role in his cultural identity. These experiences include his numerous journeys on his masters’ ships, which combined with his religious explorations at the time led him to desire to become an Englishman. At the same time, they allowed him to create a broader identity, because he saw the connections between himself and other cultures (such as Turkish and Jewish cultures of the time.)
The second crucial factor in...