Concept Of Identity In Graduation By Angelou, Shooting An Elephant By Orwell, And Black Men In Public Spaces By Staples
Identity is the characteristics, beliefs, personalities, and experience of a person or a group. Identity is who people are, as they think about themselves, their perspective on the world, and their characteristics that describe them. In “Graduation,” Angelou wrote about her 8th grade graduation where a white person tries to belittle her and her race. Orwell records his incident in “Shooting an Elephant,” when he had to live up to expectations that the Burmese people put on him, based on his identity. In “Black Men and Public Space,” Staples addresses a situation where he was identified as a criminal because of his race. People aren’t born or given identities, they create who they are and their identities through their experience.
In “Graduation,” Angelou and her classmates were given an identity by white person because of their race, saying that African Americans were only good for sports and servicing white people. Angelou began to state what she loved about her community and about herself.
She was proud of her race and her identity as one of them, but once Edward Donleavy wanted to give her an identity as someone who can’t do anything. He told them that the white students at the Central School will get “a well-known artist” from Little Rock, the “newest microscopes [,] and chemistry equipment” while they got nothing (Angelou 473). She began to hate herself and others. She started to say that “it was awful to be a Negro” and that everyone else, not including white race, “were [an] abomination. All of [them],” she let the identity Donleavy gave her consume her (Angelou 474). Yet, Henry Reed was the only one that didn’t let the identity to devour him. He didn’t care what Donleavy said about their race. He sang the Negro national anthem with honor to show them that they are more than what Donleavy had said. His words made “an impression on” them and they all realize that they do matter. Angelou then stated that they are “on top again” and she “was a proud member” of her race (Angelou 476). She created her identity in her race. If identity is given, people lose themselves. Identity must be created by themselves. People won’t be their true self if they don’t create, their identity for themselves.
Orwell wrote about his experience in “Shooting an Elephant” when he was given an identity as a strong white man by the Burmese people. Orwell was a police officer when Britain conquered the Burmese people. They gave him an identity as a big strong white man where he has the power. So when an incident happens with an elephant during it’s “‘must’” it kills a person and destroys their town (Orwell 582). Orwell orders for a gun in the case that he needs to use it to. When the people found out, they stated to follow and cheer for him and that made him “uneasy” because “it was bit of fun [for] them” to see the Orwell kill the elephant (Orwell 582 583). When he saw the elephant peaceful in the field, he didn’t want to kill the elephant and he wanted only to watch if the elephant attacked again. But the crowd was not going to let him, they want to see the elephant be killed by him. He started to say that “the people [were] expected [him]” to do it and “[he] had got to do it” because they were demanding to it (Orwell 584). Eventually, he kills the elephant because he accepts his identity given by the people. He told himself that he was “wear[ing] a mask, and his face grow[ing]” into the identity. He was melancholy when he kills the elephant and how long and painful it was. He lets the identity dominate over him and control his actions. When people don’t create their own identity, it lets them do things that them don’t want to do. People won’t be happy if they live by someone else rules, while they can make their own rules and identity to live happily.
In “Black Men in Public Spaces,” Staples was given an identity by white people who were afraid of his skin color. Staples starts with incidents that happens to him and people that he knows. Staples knew what identity white people were putting on him as “a mugger [or as] a rapist” and he was “surprised, embarrassed, and dismayed” at all these accusations by them (Staples 394). Staples goes on to talk about the incidents where they assumed that he will do something to them. He felt heartbroken when they thought about this. Due to the identity that white people put on him, he “grew accustomed to” it but he never felt relaxed with the fact they are afraid of him for no reason (Staples 394). He knows that he can’t change that fact that they are afraid of him, but he can decrease their fear. He changes how he moves at night by “give[ing] wide berth” to the pedestrians, he wears suits instead of casual wear, he waits for people to leave when entering, he looks “clam and extremely congenial” when pulled over, and “whistle[‘s] melodies” from classical music (Staples 396). He felt that they couldn’t think bad of him if he did those things, like whistling classical music because a criminal won’t whistle. Staples made his own identity where people admire rather fear him. When people give someone an identity, they can change and let it influence them to become a part of them. Instead of becoming the identity that they give, let it in power them and go on into the future as a better person than before.
People create their identities; they are not given. When they are given an identity, they lose their true selves. They need to create one for themselves. When they don’t create it for themselves, they end up doing things that they don’t like. Angelou made her own identity rather than the identity Donleavy tried to give her, Orwell didn’t make his own identity and he suffer because of his actions, and Staples creates his identity by changing the stereotype of him.