Identity Essay Example: A Constantly Changing Human Characteristic
Identity is an essential aspect of being human, personal identities make people unique and they determine how a person acts, sees themselves and how others see them. Identity is a person’s sense of self and without this feeling it can leave the individual feeling lost and searching for their true identity. The main characters in The Tricking of Freya, Othello and Indian Horse all go on adventures and are faced with trials that ultimately shape who they are and their true identity. Identity is the most important part of a human, as it will not be lost when they die their reputation and identity will stay on this earth for many years to come, even after death. “I have lost the immortal part of myself” (Shakespeare 2.3. 282-283).
Identity is a crucial part of a person’s sense of self, it is influenced by both the family they are born into and their personal life experiences, it constantly evolves and changes depending on the course their life takes. There are no two people with the same identity and this human feature is what makes everyone unique. A person’s true identity is not complete until the day that they die, as they are still experiencing life changing events, growing and becoming the person that they are ultimately meant to be and this process is only complete when a person’s life is over. In the story, The Tricking of Freya, Freya experiences different life events which end up shaping the person that she is at the end of the story.
Without the events that occurred in Freya’s life she would not have evolved into the person that she become. In Othello, Othello allows his identity to be influenced by those around him and his life events. In Indian Horse, Saul Indian Horse has a hard time determining his sense of self. His culture was taken away from him at a very young age and his culture was denounced in front of him which made him question himself. Saul goes on many adventures that lead him to find his true identity and sense of self. The sense of identity is very important in human nature and without this feeling, people may feel lost in the world and as if they do not belong. Identity is a quest that humans must take to find their true sense of self and they only will feel complete when this quest has come to a successful end.
Freya is very conflicted when it comes to the topic of identity as many of the people around her have different opinions on her identity. This is a very hard dilemma for Freya to come to terms with as she believes that others are determining her identity and she is the only one who can truly figure this out. Freya’s mother, Anna believes that Freya should identify as an American and Anna does not encourage Freya to integrate her Icelandic origins into her sense of identity. Freya goes the first seven years of her life thinking that she is a full American so at first this is how she identifies herself. Freya also identifies herself as a fun loving, energetic child who is a handful for her mother.
Freya’s sense of self changes drastically when she goes to visit family in Gimli. When Freya goes to Gimli for the first time she meets family that she has never met before, this makes her question her true identity. While in Gimli she also learns a lot of the Icelandic language and culture, she questions whether or not this should be a part of her identity. “[Freya] believes in Freya” (Sunley 58). Freya also experiences a life changing event during her first summer in Gimli, she does a cartwheel into Sigga’s china cabinet, this causes the cabinet to break and her mother, Anna faints seeing her child injured. This causes Anna to suffer from a life altering brain injury. This accident changes Freya’s sense of identity as she feels responsible for her mother’s death. Freya begins to identify herself as a serious child, who is deeply guilty of her mother’s accident she begins to act more like a mother than Anna. “[Freya] took such good care of [Anna], acting like a mother even though [Freya] was the child” (70). Freya’s identity is also affected by learning Icelandic, she begins to identify herself as an Icelandic-American.
Freya’s identity is heavily influenced by Birdie. When Birdie brings Freya to Iceland, Freya’s personality and sense of self changes drastically, Freya begins to feel guilty for Birdie’s actions and she becomes even more of an adult than she previously was. When Freya experiences the trauma that comes with Birdie’s suicide on Freya’s birthday this changes her identity greatly. She becomes very withdrawn, she begins to rebel against her family and she acts very irresponsibly. As seen with all of these events in Freya’s life her identity is greatly influenced by the different life events that she has experienced. Freya’s last huge life event to totally change her sense of identity is when she realizes that she is truly Birdie’s child and not Anna’s, as she has been lead to believe for her entire life. This last huge event in Freya’s life leads Freya to question everything she has ever known about herself. “[Freya] tells you [finding out Birdie was her biological mother] was the biggest shock of [her] life, worse than Birdie’s suicide or even my mother’s death. It unraveled me” (332).
She questions whether Anna is her mother or if Birdie is her mother. “Birdie [Freya’s] mother? It confuses [Freya] still…. [Freya] had actually spent [her] whole life believing [she’d] emerged from mam’s womb” (333). She also debates whether or not her identity is made by herself or from the family that she comes from. Freya eventually comes to terms with this new discovery and she makes peace with the fact that she is Birdie’s child, she does not care as she believes that her true identity is how she sees herself and her identity is that she makes it. At the end of the story, Freya finds her true identity and she feels at peace with the person who she has become. “[Freya] has lived in Iceland for three years now; [She’s] due to graduate this spring. Both of [Freya’s] mothers would be very proud” (331). Freya’s story shows just how greatly your identity is determined by yourself and how it can be affected by an individual’s life course.
Sense of Identity
Saul Indian Horse goes through many obstacles to find his sense of self and his true identity. When Saul is a little boy he identifies himself with the outdoors and the Indigenous way of life. This way of life is all that he knows and he feels deeply connected to the land and to his grandmother, Naomi. “[Saul] was lonely for the sky, for the feel of it on [his] face” (Wagamese 43). Saul’s sense of identity changes drastically when he is taken from his dead grandmother’s arms and thrown into the rude environment of a residential school. When Saul is living in St. Jerome’s Indian Residential school he starts to identify himself as the shy, withdrawn boy who was found in the arms of his frozen, dead grandmother. “[Saul] retreated. That’s how [he] survived. Alone… [Saul] ached in solitude” (55). He used to be a curious, outgoing boy but the experience of residential schools changes his sense of self drastically.
This example shows how quickly and how drastically a person’s identity can change when a certain event occurs. The next huge event in Saul’s journey to discover his identity is when he discovers the sport of hockey. Hockey becomes Saul’s identity, as when he plays he becomes the star of the team and he leaves his former identity of being sad, angry with the word and withdrawn. “ [Saul]stepped onto the ice and Saul Indian Horse, the abandoned Ojibway kid, clutched in the frozen arms of his dead grandmother, ceased to exist” (83). During Saul’s years of identifying himself as a hockey star he begins to be faced with racism and he begins to start taking out this anger by fighting. “The crowd never let [Saul] be a just be a hockey player. [He] always had to be an Indian” (164).
Saul starts to identify himself as a fighter, the amount of anger that Saul has inside of himself also leads him to the path of alcoholism. “[Saul] discovered that being someone you are not is often easier than living with the person you are” (181). Saul begins to feels that all he is, is a drunk Indian, who is good for nothing. Saul finally leaves this identity behind and gains a positive sense of self when he begins his journey of reconciliation. Saul goes back to all the places that have meant something to him in his past in order to release the pain he has kept inside of himself for many years.
Saul goes to St. Jerome’s residential school and Gods Lake in order to begin his quest for healing. Once he visits these places and starts his journey of healing he goes back to the Kelley’s house and begins to change his identity to a caring, junior hockey coach. Saul went from being a lost boy because he had his culture stripped from him to being an inspiration hockey coach for many young boys who look up to him. “So [Saul] thinks that what [he] wants to do is coach. Kids. Native kids. Bring them the joy [he] found; the speed, the grace, the strength and the beauty of the game. [Saul] wants to give back" (212). Saul’s story is a story of finding an individual’s sense of self and identity, the events he experiences in his life have all shaped the man he became and his identity was constantly changing.
Othello’s identity changes drastically as the events of the story unfold. Othello begins by being a strong, respected military general. He identifies himself with his position in the military and his honorable personality. “Let him do his spite. My services which I have done the signiory, shall out-tongue his complaints” (Shakespeare 1.2. 20-23). Many people see Othello as an honorable man who deserves respect and who is unable to let emotion overtake him and let his judgement be clouded by overwhelming jealousy. This identity changes drastically over the course of the story.
Othello’s identity and sense of self is easily influenced by those that he surrounds himself with. When he first meets and falls in love with Desdemona, this love for Desdemona becomes a huge part of his identity. Othello begins to identify himself as Desdemona’s loving husband but still keeps his original characteristics and he stays an honorable man. Othello’s identity is changed hugely by the manipulative Iago. Iago completely changes how Othello behaves, and how others view him. Othello becomes violent towards his wife which is very unlike him and his identity changes from being an honorable respected man, to a man who many people have lost respect for. “My lord, this would not be believed in Venice. Though I should swear I saw ’t. 'Tis very much. Make her amends, she weeps” (4.1.190-193).Othello allows his identity to be changed entirely by Iago, this causes him to lose his sense of self and he loses control of himself and does many things that are very unlike him.
At the end of the story Othello’s identity changes entirely as he becomes a murderer and kills his wife which is extremely against his former sense of self and identity. The events in Othello’s life have caused his identity to change for the worst. These events show that it sometimes it takes a horrific event to occur in order to truly discover who you are, Othello figured out that he was an honorable man who had a huge flaw of believing that people were honest and he was easily taken advantage of. “Of one that loved not wisely, but too well; of one not easily jealous, but being wrought, perplexed in the extreme”(5.2. 400-403). By the time that he realizes his true identity and sense of self it is too late as he allowed his identity to be changed by Iago for a brief period and during this time Othello committed actions he cannot take back or make right. Othello serves as an example of what can happen when a person allows the people around him to influence a part of himself that should be up to him and him alone to decide for himself.
These three examples of characters finding their true identities shows just how difficult it is for people to figure out how to identify themselves. Many times it is essential for a character to go through a traumatic experience in order to determine how they deal with this issue. This shows that it may take an extremely long time to find who you truly are. All of these examples clearly show that life events and experiences are a huge factor into a person’s identity. One person could identify themselves very differently if they lived a different life, your identity is caused mostly by how your life unfolds instead of the family that you are born into and your genes. The main things that each of these character’s stories has in common is that they all have their identities thoroughly changed throughout their lives depending on the course that their lives take. Identities are who we are and they are essential to human beings and allow us to differentiate one person from another, it is very important to go through these huge life events that alter our identities in order to grow into the people that we are meant to be.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Sunley, Christina. The Tricking of Freya. St. Martin’s Press, 2009.
Wagamese, Richard. Indian Horse. Douglas and McIntyre, 2012.