Cultural Identity

Essay by SootySmudge November 2014

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Cultural identity that is elusive, is a hard to define concept at it is the way a group of people can be characterised by there traditional customs and behaviours. This is an important concept for young Australians to consider today because we are confronted with a population that must accommodate very different cultural groups. My understanding has been significantly developed through my engagement of Markus Zusak's novel, The Book Thief. It made me understand how a dominant culture can result in the creation of 'the other', and can result in the changing shape of the other group. It also made me think about how our cultural identity may be revealed through our language and our shared history.

The clash of cultures in Zusak's novel is an excellent introduction in forming ideas about cultural identity. The dominant Aryan Germans in the twentieth century reveal a collective view of Jews as being different and less worthy.

The anti-Semitism displayed by Hitler's Nazi regime that resulted in the extermination of six million Jews of German in the Second World War is documented for the whole world to abhor. However, Zusak depicts a anti-Semitic attitude emanating from the citizens of Molching. Frau Holtzapel for example, when bargaining with Rosa in the kitchen says in disgust, "What are you, a Jew?" She finds this a natural way to express her disgust at Rosa's hard bargaining. This speaks of a universal attitude that divided the German nation into Aryan Germans and Germans who were Jews, thus creating a sub-class of Germans who were characterised in negative ways. The fictional Frau Holtzapel isn't part of any official mistreatment of Jews but she is guilty of thinking them as 'different'. It seems to me that this is how cultural identity can classify people as being outside...