Selfhood in American Literature - Assignment Example

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This assignment "Selfhood in American Literature" will begin with the statement that the word “selfhood” is defined as 1) the state of having a distinct identity or individuality; 2) the fully-developed self or an achieved personality; and 3) self-centeredness. …
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Selfhood in American Literature
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Download file to see previous pages Both literature and the media are full of these images of the self as separate from the society he moves in.  It is not uncommon to find the theme of a story, whether in literature or in film, where man is facing an adversary outside of himself, if not larger than himself.  It is understandable, as writers often draw upon their own experiences and insights to produce these stories. American literature, as surveyed in this class, is not any different from the rest. The three works to be cited in this essay are Walt Whitman's preface to Leaves of Grass, William Faulker's A Rose for Emily, and three chapters from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Though set in a form that is often filled with flowery imagery and other masking literary devices as poetry is, Mr. Whitman's message in this preface is simple and clear. His soul, his inner being - his self - is committing himself to write the verses that, as lines, three to five infer, will give him a measure of immortality. For what perhaps does the self seek most of all but immortality, the assurance that the self will live on long after its confining body is gone. The idea of the self emerges differently in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily. In this short story, the heroine, Emily Grierson, is depicted to be the last remaining member of a distinct and highly-respected family in their community. As Mr. Faulkner put it, "the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such" (582). Miss Emily's father is said to be a domineering man. Miss Emily had a sweetheart, but just when everyone thought they were getting married, he left her suddenly. Thus, after the death of her father, she lived alone in the big house that crumbles slowly with time along with her own progressing age, seeing no one and accepting no one into the house, except for the time she spent giving lessons painting china to the young ladies of their community. Only a black male servant stayed in the house to attend to her needs. Miss Emily's plight and fate portray the need of the self to live outside the labels put up by society, and the need to be loved for its own merit. The Grierson is elevated from the rest of the people in the community. Mr. Faulkner writes that Miss Emily, as the last remaining Grierson, "had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town" (580). The men of the town went to her funeral "out of respectful affection for a fallen monument," while the women came merely because they were curious to see the inside of the house. They do not see Miss Emily as a person; she is just a testament to the glories of the past. ...Download file to see next pagesRead more
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