I Am What I Am - Essay on (Re)Gaining Identity in a Mercy by Toni Morrison

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I am what I am

“How will I be remembered?”. A question many people ask themselves, though for some there is no how. In A Mercy, through the mouth of Jacob Vaark, Toni Morrison gives us an interesting answer to this question. Actually, it is more of a statement, than an answer. Nonetheless, I feel it deserves attention, and, in a way, guides me to a subject I did not expect, identity. A subject which I shall be discussing below, but before I digress too far, here is Jacob’s statement.

“What a man leaves behind is what a man is.[1]”

In the book, Jacob’s wish is to leave behind a large house, this is what he feels is what represents him. In his eyes, a large house means he was successful, that he climbed up the social ladder and made a difference. That he was a man to be reckoned with, to be feared perhaps, to be loved, to be envied. I could go on, but I think it is obvious by now that Jacob’s house stands for more than simple shelter and, by extension, so should Jacob. But I would like to take a few steps back first.

There seems to be an almost insatiable desire among humans to define things. Aside from abstract ideas and concepts, one of the most difficult things to describe is ourselves. However, each individual specifies him- or herself in different ways. For some it is their profession, for others the role they have within their family. For all though, it is a constant process of defining and redefining.

Due to this process, for most “how will I be remembered” ties in with “who am I”. The answer to both might be the work you have done. Albert Einstein, for instance, is remembered mostly for his work, not as a patent clerk, but as a theoretical physicist. Another possible answer could be the influence one has had on the lives of one’s loved ones. Perhaps your grandmother inspired you, or your uncle guided you towards a choice which you feel helps explain who you have become. And you will always remember them for that single at....
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