Finding One's Self in Jane Smiley’s Moo

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Finding One's Self in Jane Smiley’s Moo

Finding one's self is not without turmoil. This does not pertain to only the young. It takes some people well into old age before they reach the level of ‘knowing’ who they are. An essential element of this maturation is turbulence. Periodic turbulence gives an individual the opportunity to rise above previous deficiencies of personality and provides levels of self-awareness. There are many ways that people face maturation, and many more ways in which they do or don’t face their ‘demons’.

Let’s look at some of the characters in Jane Smiley’s novel, Moo. At Moo University there are plenty of examples of turmoil and growth process’. One of the ways that a person matures is through learning to accept themselves for who they are.

Cecelia Sanchez is the assistant professor of foreign languages. An immigrant from Mexico, Cecelia is the first in her family to make something of herself, at least in her family’s eyes. She has done all the right things yet she feels dislocated from herself. On arriving at Moo University she experiences a feeling of displacement, as if she doesn’t belong. In her first weeks there "she would have picked a different source of dislocation." (Smiley, 16).

Cecelia’s life turns upside down as she attaches herself to the chaotic world of Chairman X. She attempts to locate herself through him. She shops for "transformative items" (Smiley, 261) in an attempt to remake herself into something that Chairman X will want. It isn’t until Cecelia returns home to Los Angeles for the holidays that she feels "a fourth presence enter the room. It was her own sadness." (Smiley, 266).

Cecelia tells Tim, "I come from a family who could have LIVED somewhere, but instead just ended up." (Smiley, 378). Cecelia has decided that she does not want to ‘end up’ somewhere. Her turmoil has led her to realize that she has a choice to ‘end up’ in a place of her choosing, not someone else’s.

Other people find through turmoil that it is time to release the myths with which they have surrounded themselves. Chairman X and his lifelong companion, Beth, have made a life for themselves that does not fit into the myth they created many years before. They had never married because they originally believed that they must not "in order to subvert the capitalist tradition of marriage as a property relationship and the consequent intrusion of the corporation into private life.

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