How family and cultural ties impact the identity

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Introduction

Issues pertaining to personal identity have always piqued a lot of interest from scholars. This is especially with regard to the sources and influences of personal identity. It is well understood that personal identity underlines the values, characteristics, beliefs, as well as the features of an individual. It determines the manner in which an individual would react to a particular situation. Needless to say, understanding an individual’s identity necessitates that scholars understand what influences there may be for the same. In fact, an individual’s identity can never or should not be interpreted or explored in isolation. Instead, it should be examined in the context of its varied influences. While it is understood that an individual’s personality or identity may be naturally determined, the interest of scholars has been piqued by the influence of external forces such as the family and cultural ties. Individuals, while growing in a certain culture or within a certain familial setting, start absorbing the practices, values and beliefs of that setting in their everyday activities through a process referred to as acculturation. This underlines the fact that the culture surrounding an individual will always play a crucial role in the development and growth of their identity.

It goes without saying that volumes of literature have been written examining the influence of culture and familial ties on the identity of an individual. In Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem titled “Where Children Live”, the environment where children grow is contrasted with an environment where only adults live. Children’s environment is seen as dirty and chaotic, with “corpses of bottle-rockets and whistles” strewn all over the lawn (Nye 12). This is contrasted with the environment in which grown-ups live, dignified houses where there are “No lost shoes blooming under bushes”. However, the few last lines underline the influence of culture or environment on the child, stating that fences in these homes are crucial as they allow children to go in and out. It states that the yards continue growing, even when children are away, with the “leftovers of their affection”. On the same note, the poem states that the roots of even the tiniest plants curl towards each other (Nye 20). These statements show how children are casual and carefree towards life. Their capacity to persevere in all circumstances enables them to adapt to change, explore life, as well as discover themselves. As the last line in the poem states, children are always inclined to the people around whom they grow, or rather, their values and beliefs “curl towards” those of other people in their environment (Nye 20).

These ideas are repeated in Chenjerai Hove’s poem “You will Forget”. Hove Clearly underlines the process of acculturation where he states that, an individual would forget the varied hardships pertaining to the past if they stay in comfort for too long (Hove, 19). For example, an individual would forget the pain that comes with childbirth without having a modern nurse (nurse in white) if he or she stays in comfort for too long (Hove, 12). These statements underline the process of acculturation, where an individual would be taught the things to pay attention to or the things that he or she should value by the environment or people with whom he stays. The comfortable environment within which an individual lives would teach him or her the things with which he or she is concerned about or values. These beliefs and values define who an individual is, his character, behavior and values or rather the personal identity in totality.

This notion is also emphasized in Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds”. When Amy was taken to the beauty training school, the instructor loped the soggy clumps of hair making it even once more. It is worth noting that the hair was made to resemble that of Peter Pan, who was extremely popular in those days. Not only did she love the haircut but it also made her look forward to her future frame (Tan, 98). Most notable is the fact that she does not appear to be overly hateful of the previously soggy clumps that were her hair before. Her liking of the even haircut has been influenced by societal values and norms, as well as the views of those people with whom she lives. Her imaginations pushed her to aspire to be perfect in the eyes of her parents as that was the only thing that would eliminate the need to silk at anything (Tan 99). The influence of the family on one’s identity is underlined by the statement that something died inside the girl after seen her mother disappointed with her poor performance in tests (Tan 99). She felt the need to live up to the expectations of the family and the society at large. These expectations undoubtedly shaped the values that she held.  In addition, her mother’s condescending comments seemed to push her away from performing the best that she could. This is contrasted by the support that she received from Old Chong, which pushed her to realize that maybe she was not doing her best and motivated her to be dutiful in her own way (Tan 301). This is also underlined at the end of the story where her mother stops her criticism and offers her a piano during her 13th birthday. The support and consi.............


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