Analyzing Tony Soprano´s Life and Personal Development in Relation with the Philosophical Format of Identity
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In introducing someone most people use a format of giving the person’s name and some correlation of how they know them. In Italian culture; and more so, organized families, people are introduced as a friend of mine or a friend of ours. This is to establish the relationship to “The Family” and how they might be trusted. This does not allow for one’s own identity, but only for their association to, or not to, an affiliation. A person’s autonomy is then lost and only their social identity is known. Personal growth is a constant, although many would love to say they are developed at a certain age, this is not so because development of self and identity is ongoing and ever changing. In formal tradition, I now introduce to you a friend of ours; Mister Tony Soprano from The Sopranos and we will look at his life and personal development in relation with the philosophical format of identity. Kwame Anthony Appiah wrote a book called Ethics of Identity and in this he looks at many philosophers but mainly John Stuart Mill and his lifelong work to define identity and how one is to acquire it.
Appiah’s book asks many questions of how we define identity and how is it developed. Through the work of Mr. Mill’s lifelong experiment Appiah describes the philosophical approach to answer these questions in several areas. The areas we are going to pull from this book to help define and analyze Tony Soprano are; Autonomy, Plan of Life, Character and Social Choice. All of these will show that life is not just set for each of us, but that we must make it and as Appiah describes “Identity is not so much a state to be achieved as a mode of life to be pursued”(5).
Growing up in New Jersey as an Italian must be quite difficult as you are known...
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...thing but what I find in myself, would be to eliminate all candidates for what matters” (13). This means that if we do not look at the things that truly matter to Mr. Soprano then we will never know his real identity. Consequently any choice he makes is also based on these things. Through the concepts Appiah introduced in his writing, it is clear that Tony Soprano does have character and an individual identity. All be it one that many may not agree with, but is within his realm of culture, society, and personal sense of choice. No one else should chart his course for him and if they did he would probably say “Ah Forgedaboutit” or possibly “How about I put a bullet in your fuckin' head huh?” (Sopranos #6-19)
Appiah, Kwane Anthony. The Ethics of Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2005, 1-35.
The Sopranos. Home Box Office Series. 1999-2007. Video.