Despite being a very diverse literature genre in terms of influence and inspiration, North American literature encompasses many works that share some very common thematic elements. Though there are several themes shared, one in particular can be found in most any work – the importance of identity. Particularly in some selected pieces yet to be named, identity is a very important element, not only because it is a necessity for a main character in any work of literature, but because these works express ideas about identity as being very individualistic – as opposed to being a mere result of cultural surroundings. Zora Neal Hurtson’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, and Art Spiegelman’s Maus; these three works illustrate identity in this manner – a development of self, influenced yet not controlled by elements of relevant cultures.
Hurtson’s tale tells a fictional account of Janie Crawford, a middle-aged black woman who goes through a search, and a struggle through opposing forces in her surrounding culture, in her quest to celebrate her own individual identity. The opposing cultural influence begins right from her childhood – her grandmother who raises her, whose cultural views are influenced by the common ideas of the outside world, seeks out to find a man she can marry to secure her a strong social status. She marries her off to a man name Logan Killicks, a successful farmer, and Janie begins to realize that the role that culture sees fit for her makes her very unhappy. Logan does not treat her very respectfully, and sees her as a mere fixture in the household, such as was the common cultur...
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...dual identities sought by their respective protagonists. These identities all become realized and celebrated through these stories in some way shape or form. Not only are these expressions of who they are, but they show a desire to go against cultural backdrops that dictate their identities to be something they do not want them to be. Identity is a necessity in literary works, but it does not always take on this kind of thematic meaning. In these stories, identity is a struggle that culminates with a celebration of self; that very struggle makes these stories what they are, and radiate the ideal of individuality.
Hurston, Zora Neale. (1937). Their Eyes Were Watching God. J.B. Lippincott Inc.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. (1975). Woman Warrior. New York, Toronto: Random House, Inc.
Spiegelman, Art. (1973). Maus. New York, Toronto: Random House, Inc.
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