The Loss of Identity Portrayed in a Range of Literature

Topics: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alter ego Pages: 7 (2775 words) Published: February 5, 2012
Report: Loss of Identity portrayed in a range of literature

For my report I chose to look at the loss of Identity portrayed in a range of different literature. The texts that I chose to study were: ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘I am not Esther’ by Fleur Beale, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde and ‘Face Off’ directed by John Woo and written by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. In all five texts that I studied the theme “loss of identity” was apparent, and in every case the main characters are the ones that experience a loss of identity. In ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ the main characters lead a double life which causes them to forget about who they really are. However, in ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ the main character goes mad and then loses her identity. The main character in ‘I am not Esther’ is forced to change her identity and starts to lose her true identity along the way. The same goes for the two main characters in ‘Face Off’ that swap identities and are so wound up in pretending to be each other that they lose their identities. Throughout my research I will be answering three different questions; to what extent does setting cause a loss of identity?, how is symbolism used to explore the theme?, and how do others influence a loss of identity?

To what extent does setting cause a loss of identity?
Both ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ were set in London, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in the 1890’s whereas ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ was set in the 1870’s. In London, the members of society that were in the upper classes had a great deal of pressure to uphold their responsibilities pushed onto them. The gentlemen of the 1800’s had a reputation to keep intact and because of the pressure to follow their duty, honour, and responsibilities Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff from ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ created alter egos that allowed them to escape their responsibilities and ignore the boundaries of being upper class men. For Jack, his troubled younger brother Earnest allows him regular visits to town to see how his brother is. “When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people.” This quote, spoken by Jack as Earnest, portrays that setting is a big part of how people act and behave. It also tells us that Jack only comes to town to amuse his self and not have to worry about anyone else. As for Algernon, his dear friend Bunbury who is ill accounts for all of Algernon’s trips to the country.

Robert Louis Stevenson describes Henry Jekyll in a gentleman like way, his home is well-kept, grand and beautiful whereas Edward Hyde is portrayed as being much more animalistic and his home is shabby and neglected. I believe that Jekyll and Hyde’s “homes” are a reflection of their personalities and that the appearance of both has an influence on the person (i.e. they are symbolic). If Edward Hyde’s home was kept in the same condition as Henry Jekyll’s then I think Hyde would not be as evil. However, as he is the complete opposite of Jekyll it would mean, most likely, that Jekyll would not be as much of a gentleman as he is portrayed to be.

In ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, Antoinette lives in a town that is ruled by white people but because Antoinette and her family are of a Creole descent and act high and mighty neither the whites nor the blacks approve of them. Antoinette wants to be accepted by people and because the town isolates her family she becomes confused about her identity. “We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking-glass.” This is not dialogue but is what Antoinette is thinking, it shows that she wishes she was Tia, who knows who she is (i.e. a black woman), because then she would have her own racial identity. It...

Bibliography: Beale, F. (2008). I am not Esther. Dunedin, New Zealand: Long Acre Press. (Original work
published 1998)
Rhys, J. (1966). Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: W. W. Norton (USA).
Stevenson, R. L. (2007). The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The Strange Case of
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (pp. 1 - 107). London: Headline Review Classics. (Original work
published 1886)
Wilde, O. (1986). The Importance of being Earnest. The Importance of being Earnest and
other plays (pp. 247 - 313). England: Penguin (Non-Classics). (Original work published
Woo, J. (Director). (1997). Face/Off [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount.
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