A Means of Existence
How do experiences, good or bad, shape the identity of an individual and make them stand apart from others? In the award winning novel A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews and the classic best seller Anne of Green Gables, by L.M Montgomery, the struggle and desire to find personal identity is profound. Through a series of experiences, the main characters in each novel, one a rebellious Mennonite and the other a red headed orphan, are forced to look within themselves and realize one of the most commonly asked question, “who am I?” As both Nomi and Anne grow internally, not only do they find gratification for themselves, but they also allow others to be set free in the same way. From the beginning of the book to the end, Nomi and Anne’s personal changes are drastic and through all their hardships, both characters and their companions become changed for the better. Experiences are the foundation to discovering personal identity, seen through death, expectations, rejuvenation. Death can be seen as a catalyst for the formation of personal identity. This is evident through the death of family, life, and religion. First, in A Complicated Kindness Nomi's personality is shaped when she deals with the death of her family structure. When her mother and sister disappear, “Sometimes I think Trudie blamed Ray for Tash leaving town with Ian because if Ray had agreed to leave first, had taken us all off to some other place, Tash wouldn’t have had anything to rebel against and would have stuck around”, (118, Toews). Nomi and her father, Ray, are abandoned by Trudie and Tash, Nomi’s mother and sister, because their religious community is suffocating. Through this abandonment, Nomi and Ray are left with only each other and learn to work together as a small family. With the loss of her female role models, Nomi is forced to mature and develops a unique, free-thinking attitude on life. Death of family is also seen in Anne of Green Gables when Anne’s mother and father die, “That’s why I had lived in the asylum all those years. There was a terrible accident that took the lives of both my ma and pa. It’s all quite sad, you know”, (17, Montgomery). After the death of Anne’s parents in a tragic fire, Anne is forced to live without a family in an orphanage. Without the proper guidance of her parents, Anne becomes more independent and begins to look for the positive things in life, rather than dwelling on the negative. This allows Anne to grow into an optimistic adolescent. Both novels show clear examples of the death of family structure. Both Nomi and Anne face these losses with high heads, which leads them to gain certain traits that allow them to find their identities. In both novels, Nomi and Anne grow by learn to appreciate the people they love and to be independent. Next, in A Complicated Kindness, Nomi becomes aware of her identity when she faces death of life when her mother, Trudie’s, survival is questioned, “The Mouth had suggested once that my mother might have killed herself out of guilt and regret. I think it was the ending he most enjoyed, the typically grim outcome that made sense to him”, (245, Toews). Nomi’s uncle, who is the leader of her community, suggests that perhaps Trudie killed herself out of guilt for leaving the community. Nomi thinks that this may be a possibility because when Trudie left East Village, she did not take her passport with her. This upsets Nomi greatly and causes her to reflect on her family life before she was abandoned, which allows her to realize who she is. Death of life can also be seen in Anne of Green Gables when Anne’s father figure, Matthew dies, “I want to be quite silent and quiet and try to realize it. I can’t realize it. Half the time it seems to me that Matthew can’t be dead; the other half of it seems as if he must have been dead for a long time and I’ve had this horrible dull ache ever since”, (299, Montgomery). When Anne is away at school, she hears news of...
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