Identity is whatever makes one definable and recognizable, in terms of possessing a set of qualities or characteristics, that distinguishes one from others. OneÃÂÃÂs identity is unique and ever-changing, interpreted dissimilarly from different points of view and influenced subconsciously by a number of exterior factors rather than consciously by oneself. Teachers and fellow students, it is this which makes the concept of ÃÂÃÂSearching for IdentityÃÂÃÂ so captivating and enthralling.
Tim Winton explores the ideas within the concept of ÃÂÃÂSearching for IdentityÃÂÃÂ extensively within his collection of short stories, ÃÂÃÂThe TurningÃÂÃÂ. Two of these said short stories have shaped my understanding of the concept of ÃÂÃÂSearching for IdentityÃÂÃÂ are ÃÂÃÂAbbreviationÃÂÃÂ and ÃÂÃÂDamaged GoodsÃÂÃÂ. Both of these stories revolve around Vic Lang, an Australian male, and his journeys through love, life and identity.
Another story which has shaped my understanding of ÃÂÃÂSearching for IdentityÃÂÃÂ is ÃÂÃÂMaestroÃÂÃÂ by Peter Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy takes on the persona of a young boy by the name of Paul Crabbe, who is taught piano by his teacher (or maestro) Eduard Keller.
Although Paul initially does not appreciate his teacher, by the end of the novel he grows to value him dearly. ÃÂÃÂMaestroÃÂÃÂ is an excellent exploration of the experiences necessary for personal growth and the attainment of self-knowledge through discovery.
ÃÂÃÂAbbreviationÃÂÃÂ by Tim Winton has shaped my understanding of the concept of ÃÂÃÂSearching for Identity" through its focus on VicÃÂÃÂs first sexual encounters. In this story, Vic is a young boy whose perception of the world is completely altered by his experiences with an older girl, Melanie. Through these experiences, he takes heed to the more risquÃÂÃÂ© world around him as he notices things he never seemed to have noticed before. For example, he notices one of his uncleÃÂÃÂs testicles constantly peeking out of his shorts and he is awakened by the sounds of his aunty and uncle making love at night. Vic is no longer the naÃÂÃÂ¯ve boy he used to be, as he has involuntarily had a sexual awakening of sorts.
VicÃÂÃÂs encounters with Melanie also lead Vic to the discovery of the relationship between pleasure and pain. Melanie inflicts pain upon Vic whilst presenting him with his first kiss in order to ensure that this experience stays with him forever. This is because, as she says ÃÂÃÂall the big things hurt, the things you remember. If it doesnÃÂÃÂt hurt itÃÂÃÂs not important.ÃÂÃÂ This point arises as Vic observes MelanieÃÂÃÂs missing ring finger, and she proudly proclaims that it is her ÃÂÃÂabbreviationÃÂÃÂ and that she can remember everything which happened on that day due to the severity of the pain, which reinforces her statement of the more painful things being the things you remember most. This idea has essentially become part of VicÃÂÃÂs perception of her identity.
At the end of the story, Vic wants to give a hook taken out of his leg to Melanie. This hook could be said to be an objectification of all the pain Vic had suffered through the last few days, making it a most suitable goodbye gift to Melanie in order to ensure she would never forget him. However, since Melanie leaves before Vic is able to give her the hook, it could be said that MelanieÃÂÃÂs experiences with Vic are either forgotten, or merely sifted through to the back of her mind with her less notable memories.
These points have further shaped my belief that oneÃÂÃÂs identity is influenced by exterior factors, such as oneÃÂÃÂs relationships and sexual experiences, rather than by the owner themselves.
Another exterior factor which may affect oneÃÂÃÂs present identity is oneÃÂÃÂs past experiences. This concept is explored in Tim WintonÃÂÃÂs ÃÂÃÂDamaged GoodsÃÂÃÂ, along with the concept of oneÃÂÃÂs relationships affecting oneÃÂÃÂs identity. ÃÂÃÂDamaged GoodsÃÂÃÂ is the story of an older Vic Lang, where his wife writes in first person of her concern over her husbandÃÂÃÂs reluctance to visit the town he grew up in, reluctance to speak of his sister and his obsession with Damaged Goods; an abnormality of sorts.
Since this story is written from VicÃÂÃÂs wifeÃÂÃÂs point of view, it could be said that she is giving a biased account of the events. Thus, it has to be taken into consideration that this is not necessarily how Vic is, but just how VicÃÂÃÂs wife perceives him as being. This illustrates the idea of how oneÃÂÃÂs identity is interpreted dissimilarly from different points of view.
VicÃÂÃÂs wife states that VicÃÂÃÂs fear of returning to Angelus and reluctance to speak of his sister is VicÃÂÃÂs attempt of escaping his identity. However, this attempt only helps to identify him to his wife as one who runs away from his problems. VicÃÂÃÂs wife also states that her husband had ÃÂÃÂfrozen overÃÂÃÂ and ÃÂÃÂshut downÃÂÃÂ after the death of his parents, and had also reverted to his thoughts of ÃÂÃÂStrawberry AlisonÃÂÃÂ.
This idea emphasizes how oneÃÂÃÂs past experiences, oneÃÂÃÂs relationships and oneÃÂÃÂs present identity are all correlated, and how oneÃÂÃÂs identity is ever-changing.
The novel Maestro has shaped my understanding of the concept of ÃÂÃÂSearching for IdentityÃÂÃÂ as it describes how identity is not static, but very much alive, and also accumulative. Through the use of contrast, between one part of PaulÃÂÃÂs life, to another, the responders of the text can observe this accumulation of happenings which shape the main protagonistÃÂÃÂs character.
This idea of oneÃÂÃÂs identity being ever-changing is evident through comparing the Paul at the beginning of the novel, with the Paul towards the end. When the novel starts he is 15 years old, arrogant and self-centered at times. Coming from a well-educated family, he feels our of place as Darwin is considered as 'low-culture' place, while Paul's family is 'high culture'. However, when Paul later visits his hometown of Adelaide, he observed ÃÂÃÂNow I felt a TerritorianÃÂÃÂs contempt for Adelaide and itÃÂÃÂs neat rows of suburbs as we circled to landÃÂÃÂ my contempt was no doubt far greater than any native Territorian would have felt: I was one of the converted, always the most zealous believers.ÃÂÃÂMaestro also delves into the subject of sexual awakening as one section of the story describes PaulÃÂÃÂs experiences with puberty. Paul speaks of how he would wake up ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ hard and pulsing below the waist, the bedsheets sticky with a strange pale honeyÃÂÃÂ and how ÃÂÃÂAt the end of the week [his] bedsheets were stiff enough to stand against the wall.ÃÂÃÂ Later in the story, Paul describes his first sexual encounters with Rosie and how this eventually led to a deep romantic relationship, ultimately resulting in the start of a family together.
PaulÃÂÃÂs piano teacher, Eduard Keller, also has an ÃÂÃÂAbbreviationÃÂÃÂ of sorts. However, he is not proud of this missing little finger as when asked about it, he simply states ÃÂÃÂIt offended meÃÂÃÂ. It is then later found out that after blaming himself and his love for music for the death of his wife and child, he had vowed that ÃÂÃÂif he ever felt the desire to play again he would hack off his fingers, one by one.ÃÂÃÂ This demonstrates that oneÃÂÃÂs past does not only affect oneÃÂÃÂs present identity figuratively, but also physically. The death of KellerÃÂÃÂs wife and child also negatively affected him as Paul states ÃÂÃÂPerhaps they were not the same man, in a sense.ÃÂÃÂ This is similar to the change observed in Vic in ÃÂÃÂDamaged GoodsÃÂÃÂ after the death of his parents.
As Tim WintonÃÂÃÂs short stories ÃÂÃÂAbbreviationÃÂÃÂ and ÃÂÃÂDamaged GoodsÃÂÃÂ and ÃÂÃÂMaestroÃÂÃÂ by Peter Goldsworthy illustrate, oneÃÂÃÂs identity is unique and ever-changing, interpreted dissimilarly from different points of view and influenced subconsciously by a number of exterior factors rather than consciously by oneself.
At the end of Maestro, Paul states ÃÂÃÂOnce we begin to sense our childhoods, we are no longer childrenÃÂÃÂ. It is on this note that I leave you today in hopes that after hearing this, you will become more aware of the many factors involved in oneÃÂÃÂs ÃÂÃÂSearch for Identity.ÃÂÃÂBibliography:'Abbreviation' - Tim Winton'Damaged Goods' - Tim Winton'Maestro' - Peter Goldsworthy