“To know our refuse is to know ourselves. We mark our own trail from past to present with what we've used and consumed, fondled, rejected, outgrown.” ― Jane Avrich, The Winter Without Milk: Stories
The theme of self-identity is very important to both Headhunter by Timothy Findley and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Against the backdrop of pervasive, ubiquitous and broad reaching societal topics, self-identity aids the audience’s understanding of how the character is thinking, feeling and how they react to certain events that take place throughout the novel. Although both novels are The Theme of Self Identity in Headhunter and Brave New World: A Contrasting Essay
written with a theme of self-identity, they differ in how the theme is portrayed. The characters, values and societal structure portrayed in each novel establishes contrasting representations of self-identity. These differences in close examination are written in Lenina of Brave New World, a character not quite sure of her own self-identity, the values of her society, and the structure in which she was raised. The novel Headhunter by Lilah Kemp provides a picture of strong self-sense and identity by constructing a very different cultural and sociological structure. First of all, Lenina is a prime example of what conformity is. Lenina is shown throughout the novel not quite understanding Bernard, a character struggling to find his sense of self in a world designed to repress any and all individualism. In turn, Lenina tries to understand Bernard’s unusual behaviour but simply cannot fathom the exact nature of his words which differ greatly from those of the Directors. When one examines what it means to have “self-identity”, he comes across the definition: “the conscious recognition of the self as having a unique identity”.(Merriam-Webster Dictionary) Lenina is shown throughout the novel as not having “conscious recognition of the self as having unique identity” and one prime example of this is when Bernard asks Lenina if she would like to create her own happiness and she replies: “I don’t know what you mean….I don’t understand anything.”(Huxley, 79). Lenina is so conditioned to the social norms of her society which represses individualism that she cannot even think for herself. Anytime she is unhappy, she ingests soma; a drug which alters one’s brain chemistry to become happier and thoughtless. Lenina never finds self-identity and for the rest of the novel she consistently believes in the idea of “everybody belonging to everybody”. Whenever Bernard is unhappy she tells him to take soma, which he declines and then Lenina says: “I don’t understand anything… Nothing, least of all why you don’t take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours.” (Huxley, 79) Again illustrating her lack of understanding of what it means to be an individual and thus showing the audience that she does not have much, if any, self-identity.
In contrast, Lilah Kemp is a great exemplar of what it means to have a sense of self. Although Lilah struggles with what is real and what is not, her beliefs unlike Lenina differ from her societies. Lilah acts upon what she feels is right and what her own personal morals dictate. Contrary to Lenina, Lilah can identify key aspects of herself that contrast from other people such as her “special abilities” and spirituality. In the novel when Lilah is describing her experience being hospitalized she talks about a doctor, Doctor Baggs who “tried to take away her powers”. Lilah says: “No one understands what I have in here...I am an open door through which the dead can come and go at will.” (Findley, 35) When one reads this excerpt he can see that Lilah regards her “abilities” as something that defines or shows who she is as a person and when that is threatened to be taken from her, she fears she will lose her individuality. When one reads on he comes across when Lilah is talking about the drugs they make her take and if she does not take them...
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