Examples Of Identity In Housekeeping

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Topics: Family, Lifestyle
The Exploration of a Transient Identity
Themes such as isolation and transience are vividly portrayed through the characters present in Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping. The novel follows the lives of sisters Ruth and Lucille Stone, whose father deserts their family too early for them to remember and whose mother commits suicide around six years later. The sister were neglected in their childhood, the family that surrounded them did not want to care for them and they became isolated from any support system beyond whatever adult could be persuaded to look after them. When Ruth and Lucille aunt Sylvie returns to Fingerbone, Idaho to look after the sisters, she presents an unfamiliar lifestyle that ultimately changes their relationship as well as their standards of living. Ruth’s transformation from a dependent sister to a transient separates her
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While she and Sylvie are only dead in a metaphorical sense, they are still “dead to the ‘other world’ that Lucille and all the townspeople presumably still inhabit” (Toles 127). This appearance of death to the outside world causes Ruth to assert that she is, in fact, dead (Robinson 217). Death to the outside world, for Ruth, equates death to self. And through this death to her self, Ruth has eliminated the need for her physical body. Ruth’s mind has also become invisible to her body and purged the need for it. Towards the end of the novel she begins to give up eating and drinking. “What have I to do with these ceremonies of sustenance, of nurturing?” she inquires (Robinson 214). Her body has become an accessory to her mind, an accessory she no longer feels a need for. Caver also acknowledges this saying, “Not only has she lost voice and identity, but her very corporeality is uncertain” (130). Through this diminishing need for a body, Ruth has become consciously invisible not only to the outside world, but also to

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