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The Idea of Identity in Literature

Why is the idea of identity so prevalent in most literary works? Because that's one of the major quests in life - to find ourselves. Most people live long lives without ever finding out who they are, and they die an old natural death having never known. Sometimes it's easier to live life one day after the other, doing the same thing, living a somewhat happy life (however way we measure happiness), and be okay with it.

Others of us, whether through the circumstances that we find ourselves in or through a hidden restlessness within us, are forced to find other ways to be fulfilled, to explore what brings us happiness, or explore who exactly we are and where our place is in the world. Perhaps most of us fall under the latter category, and it's interesting to see how much we connect with the characters that some authors bring to life, who are exercising similar situations to what we are going through. Itís also quite entertaining to see these characters do things that we normally wouldn't do, but wish we could one day. Let's take a look at two books that touch on the idea of identity.

Divergent By Veronica Roth
Beatrice Prior was mediocre, living a mediocre life, wearing dull clothes, avoiding looking at mirrors as the rules of her sanction went. Then she joins Dauntless, a radical sanction widely known for their fearlessness and attraction to dangerous stunts. At first her character seems mismatched with such a sanction - how can such a genteel girl raised by ordinary parents be able to survive Dauntless? But what does she do, run back home in fear and defeat? No, she instead embraces her new culture in spite of her fears and self-doubt. She changes her name to Trice, gets a tattoo, and even though she isn't very strong, she becomes quite fearless, courageous and ready for whatever the world may throw at her, and that alone makes her a strong individual. In the midst of chaos, she found herself, and she ran with it.

The Fault in our stars By John Green
Before Hazel Lancaster met Augustus, she existed day to day, not really living, but merely surviving one day at a time. And then she meets him, and she begins to see the world differently. She didn't so much change for him or because of him in particular (although she did change due to his overall influence on her), but her take on life began to shift because he showed her how to see things differently, how to view the world from a different perspective, how to appreciate the littlest things, and even how to embrace her disease and find laughter in the midst of pain. Although a heart-wrenchingly sad book (read it if you haven't, or watch the movie, its a gorgeous story), it's equally an enlightening one. In the midst of pain, she was able to find herself and to find love.

I found these books to be quite enriching and refining, and demonstrative of how raw our quest for life's meaning can be; how mundane our old life can begin to feel when we finally find our 'calling' or 'passion' perhaps, and we choose to follow it rather than go back to living an unfulfilled life.

There are, of course, other great books out there that may touch in an even greater depth on the subject of identity, however these two are simply ones that I personally found simple yet extraordinary.

Happy reading!


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