16 December 2013
Sense of Self
Society has placed various stereotypes on genders, ethnicities, and so on. There is yet another standard for women and men. John Gray’s assertion, “A man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results… A woman’s sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships” is partially incorrect. Through sources the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy, and Professions for Women by Virginia Woolf, it will be shown that women are defined by their achievements just as much as men are, and men are defined by their relationships just as much as women are. In the novel, the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, one of the main characters, Amir, proves Gray’s assertion that men do define themselves through their ability to achieve results to be true. In desperation to finally achieve his father’s attention and approval, Amir devotedly states, “I was going to win, and I was going to run the last kite. Then I’d bring it home and show it to Baba. Show him once and for all that his son was worthy” (Hosseini, 56). In the end, Amir triumphed in the tournament as he had hoped. Even later on in the novel, Amir is proud of himself as he became a writer even though Baba didn’t consider writing as manly profession. In contrast, Hassan, the second main character, proves that Gray’s assertion about women also applies to men. Hassan demonstrates his complete and pure loyalty to Amir throughout the novel. Hassan built his sense of self not through his athleticism but through his friendship with Amir. Hassan continuously demonstrated his devotion to Amir, trying to get his approval even when Amir didn’t deserve Hassan’s friendship. In the beginning of the novel, Hassan states, “Would I ever lie to you Amir Agha?” Amir answered, “I don’t know, would you?” “I’d sooner eat dirt” (Hosseini, 54). He had also sacrificed himself when he didn’t give the blue kite to the malevolent Asef. Later on in the novel, Hassan saves Amir once again when Amir had falsely accused him of theft, “Then I understood: this was Hassan’s final sacrifice for me. If he’d said no, Baba would have believed him because we all knew Hassan never lied.” (Hosseini, 105) Hassan had constantly put Amir first; even when Amir was rude and selfish, Hassan never fought back. In Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, Frank also proves that Gray’s claim of women applies to men as well. Frank defines himself through his relationship with April. He concerns himself more with how April feels towards him or if she loves him at all than other things such as business. When April shows signs or actions of dislike toward Frank, he becomes extremely angry. “So now I’m crazy because I don’t love you, right?” April said. Frank responds, “No! Wrong! You’re not crazy and you do love me. That’s the point April.” “But I don’t. I hate you.” “F*** you, April! F*** you and all your hateful, goddamn—[He breaks a chair against a wall]” (Yates) It’s obvious that Frank can’t handle the thought that April doesn’t want to be with him. However, April is the opposite. She concerns herself through achievements rather than her feelings toward Frank. She wants to act, travel, and a whole bunch of other things but she didn’t do it. Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy is a perfect example that shows that women define themselves through feelings and quality of relationships. “Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said: You have a great big nose and fat legs...So she cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up” (Piercy). Even though Piercy wrote this metaphorically, it exemplifies the harsh reality that women try to change themselves in order to gain the relationships and feelings they wish to have. The girl could have let it go but instead she went ahead and changed herself. In the second stanza, the girl is described as healthy, intelligent, and strong yet the girl was still insecure. She couldn’t accept the way she is because her physical appearance wasn’t the same as everyone. The desire to be accepted is powerful and overcomes people. Gray may believe that men are defined through his ability to achieve results, but Virginia Woolf believes that women are not only defined by relationships, but are also defined by their success. In Professions for Women, Woolf talks about the many struggles that women face through her own story and experiences. Woolf represents the image of a “perfect” Victorian woman as Angel in the House. She discusses how Angel in the House constantly tormented and bothered her. Yet, in the end, Woolf triumphantly states, “Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was severe…” demonstrating her achievement. Because it wasn’t easy, Woolf’s major achievement of getting past and not letting stereotypes stop her from writing, defines who she is.
Stereotypes are going to be everywhere. Gray’s assertion that “A man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results… A woman’s sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships” is partially incorrect. Virginia Woolf and April Wheeler have proven that women could also be defined through achievements, not just men and Hassan and Frank Wheeler proved that men could be defined through relationships like women. Amir and Marge Piercy demonstrated that Gray’s assertion is true as well. Stereotypes are inevitable but the most one can do is prove them wrong.