Elaine Risley

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How is our identity formed? Is it true that who we are is developed at a young age? Or do the changes that occur in our lifetime allow us to develop a sense of self? Do the relationships, hardships, emotions and changes we experience define our identity? As we grow into adults there will be numerous changes that occur. Some of these changes will cause obstacles in our life and make it hard for us to move on, Others will propel us forward. Whichever the case, everything that happens in our life will shape us as people, one way or another. The memories that we carry with us, formed as a result of the experiences we have will contribute to the identity that we eventually form. Such is true for the main character in Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood. Elaine Risley, a 50 year old artist who is originally from Toronto has come back after many years for a retrospective on her work. Though the reason behind coming back to the city is for her career, she finds that the past does not leave her alone and her memories continue to arise. As Elaine shines light on her past we learn how much she has changed. The Elaine that is portrayed in the present is not who she was years ago. The hardships and experiences faced by Elaine and the coming of age allow her to mold her identity into who she is today. In more ways then one I can see myself reflected in the ways that Elaine develop her identity. On the other hand many things are also different between us two. Like Elaine Risley, my experiences, hardships, and memories shape me into the person I am. The experiences and relationships that we have in our childhood years continue to impact our developing identity well into our adulthood. The people of our childhood, the turning points in our lives, and how much our childhood memories impact our present will define our identity.

As a child Elaine was a naive, innocent child who was babied by her family because she was the youngest. She spent a lot of time playing with her brother and overall, she was a happy child but everything that she was about, all her happiness, everything, changed once she moved to Toronto at the age of 8 and met Cordellia. Elaine talks about how Toronto changed everything for her, when she says, "before we moved to Toronto i was happy" (Atwood, 22). Cordellia, also the youngest in the family, found comfort in asserting her power upon the other girls. This, Elaine later understands, was because of the lack of power and love she was given at home. Elaine was some one that trusted people with ease and did not realize it when someone was trying to harm her. The person Elaine was, allowed her to believe that Cordellia was a true friend. The lack of self confidence and the sheer trust that Elaine has in others can be seen when she says, "I am not normal, I am not like the other girls. Cordellia tells me so, but she will help me. Grace and carol will help me too. It will take hard work and a long time (Atwood 134). Here Elaine is talking about what Cordellia thinks of her. Instead of understanding that there is nothing wrong with her, Elaine's self confidence drops further and she allows herself to put her trust in her friends, to help change her into a better person. Due to the implications that Cordellia has made, Elaine starts to change herself. She starts to dress in the manner that Cordellia approves of, and stops spending time with her brother, because Cordellia says girls are meant to stay away from boys. Elaine begins to belittle herself and does not share the things that she knows with others, instead she agrees to the myths that Cordellia tells because she does not want to loose her as a friend. To deal with the misery Cordellia bestows upon her, Elaine tries to remove herself from the emotional pain and confusion she feels as a result of the bullying, by inflicting physical pain upon herself. While she does this she thinks about everything that Cordellia has said to her. The thought process that Elaine has...
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