In important in two ways. First, writers have

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In order to understand and analyse Junior’s
identities, the concept of identity must first be defined. This is a  broad notion which is used in a wide variety
of disciplines, including philosophy, mathematics and psychology among others. For
the purposes of this paper, the definition used in psychology is of most relevance. For
psychologists, identity represents a set of behaviours, emotions, and thought
patterns that are unique to an individual. Identity is usually established by
late adolescence or early adulthood. Dramatic changes to identity are rare thereafter.
Identity is shaped by childhood experience, ethnicity, culture, sexual
preferences, religious beliefs and biology. Research shows that people prefer
to label themselves, resisting those labels that others have chosen for them.
Both positive and negative labels are crucial in the development of personal
identity (Peck, 1997). PG1 

In literature, identity is
important in two ways. First, writers have a personal identity, which
influences the perspective from which they write. For example, Margaret Atwood
is Canadian; Alice Walker is African American. Atwood’s The Handmaid’s
Tale (1985) and Walker’s The Color Purple (1982) have
similarities because their authors share a gender, but there are also differences
between the two works because their authors do not share the same ethnic roots nationality.
Second, writers develop characters who may or may not express their creator’s
worldview. In James Sallis’ novels featuring Lew Griffin as the protagonist,
writer and character have different identities: Sallis is white, Griffin black.
Writers have always expressed their identities in their work, but the
development of psychological theories of personality in the twentieth century
provided authors with new concepts to explain how identities are shaped.
Psychiatrists and psychologists such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Erik Erikson,
and Abraham Maslow put forward theories that altered how modern literature is
written and judged. Anyone trying to understand twentieth century literature
must also understand these major personality theorists. Freud’s influence on
psychology – and on literature and culture – was twofold. First, Freud proposed
a theory of how human personality develops. Second, Freud created techniques
for treating mental illnesses, which, he believed, resulted from difficulties
in normal personality formation. Freud’s theory was psychoanalytic theory; his
therapy was psychoanalysis. For Freud, human character was determined by
complex genetic and environmental forces, the strongest of which exist in the
unconscious, a place in the mind seething with biological instincts and
physical drives. The unconscious, as its names suggests, is that part of the
mind that contains all (memories, desires, thoughts) of which one is not aware.
The energy that powers behaviour is the libido, which is inborn and is
primarily sexual and aggressive in nature. Society limits how the libido is expressed. Normal
human personality is composed of three systems: the id, ego,
and superego. The id contains the instinctual drives and is the only component
present from birth, the ego includes
defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions and the superego reflects the internalisation of
cultural rules which are usually taught by parents. The superego
works in contradiction to the id and strives to act in a socially appropriate
manner, whereas the id just seeks instant

Erik Erikson studied with Freud and
later developed a stage theory that owed much to Freudian concepts. However, he
proposed eight stages. Unlike Freud, Erikson argued that significant
personality changes could occur in adulthood, when intimate relationships are first
established, when middle age offers continued change or complacency, and when
death nears. Two of Erikson’s fruitful concepts for writers are the “identity
crisis” and “midlife crisis”. The identity crisis occurs in adolescence and is
correlated with people’s search for “who they are” and “how they fit in the
world.” It appears to occur only in countries such as the United States, where
people do not move directly from childhood into adult roles. American
literature, however, has produced many novels using the identity crisis
concept. Two examples are J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
and Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). A
particularly apt evocation occurs in Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest
Eye (1969), about an eleven-year-old African American girl who wants
blue eyes because she thinks only blue eyes are beautiful (Peck, 1997).

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Psychology defines two types of
identities. Social
identity defines the person in terms of belonging groups and personal identity defines
the individual. We have so many social identities as we have belonging groups to
which we belong. These groups determine our self-esteem. If we define ourselves
in relation to groups of high social status, we will have a high self-esteem.
However, those who belong to groups with poor status will need other strategies
to cope with their low assessment. Personal identity defines the self in terms
of social relationships and idiosyncratic features (I am different to other
people). What is it that makes us different to  the other people in a group? Here our characteristics,
attitudes, and skills that we think we have play an important role. Those who
define themselves by their sympathy, solidarity or bravery have a bigger
personal identity than social identity. This can happen because their belonging
groups leave them with a low self-esteem because these groups are of a low social
status or because the individuality of these people better express themselves
than their social roles (Ramírez, 2017).


Identity is also a major issue for most
adolescents, as is also the case for Junior. Teenagers shift from the identity which
they have formed in relation to their parents towards embracing an identity of their
very own (Pate, 2017). There are many novels in which identity is addressed.
One of these is The Outsiders by S.
E. Hinton. This novel addresses several issues central to teenage identity. The
main character in the novel negotiates his way through difficult situations in
relation to his identity, as part of his family, as a learner, as a loner and
as part of a clique. Many of the predicaments that the character enters into arise
from the identity which he has made for himself or has been made for him by
others (Pate, 2017). Often a person’s identity is formed from a combination of
these many different identities. Some individuals have theirs partially decided
by society; here the individual must negotiate this identity. For instance, in
the poem “My Mother Tells the Story of Her Alabama Childhood” by Elizabeth
Gorey, the protagonist is confronted with the opportunity to ignore her true
identity or embrace it. Although adolescents are in process of creating their
own identity, separate from their parents, they are in a process of push-and-pull
between these two often-conflicting identities. Teens often find themselves in
conflict with their parents and theirPG2  cultural identity (Pate, 2017). Erickson comments that
adolescents are sometimes morbidly, often curiously preoccupied with what they
appear to be in the eyes of others as compared with what they feel they are
themselves (Ramírez, 2017). 

Categories: Emotions


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