Personal Identity In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

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Seven billion. That is how many humans are alive today. We are all genetically similar, yet we are each so vastly unique. We are different in our character, in the way we think and act, and in the way that we feel and desire. Our uniqueness is attributed to personal identity. The factors that play the biggest role in shaping personal identity are social influence and how we are raised. However, one could argue that identity is a choice.
Social influence is one of the two factors that play the largest role in shaping personal identity. This is displayed in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”. “That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their
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This influential factor is exhibited in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. “Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car, sidle up to someone who is ignorant enough to be kind to him? That is the way that Maggie walks.” (Walker, Pg. 316) This text is significant because it shows how the way that Maggie is raised and the way the that she is treated by Dee and Momma affects her personal identity and the way she acts and treats others. In the story, Dee is much more beautiful than Maggie is. Dee is tall and light-skinned, whereas, Maggie is very dark-skinned and has hideous burn scars. Throughout her entire childhood, Maggie is utterly overshadowed by her sister. She receives significantly less attention than Dee and is raised as being less than her. This shapes Maggie’s personal identity by making her afraid and unconfident in herself. The way that we are raised as a factor that shapes personal identity is also displayed earlier in “Invisible Man”. “Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorted glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination - indeed, everything and anything except me.” (Ellison, Pg. 1) This excerpt is important because it illustrates how the environment that we …show more content…
Personal identity, like culture, is so diverse that it is hard to generalize about it, but some people are likely to object on the grounds that identity is a choice. Maya Angelou agrees when she writes “It’s in the fire in my eyes, and the flash of my teeth. The swing in my waist, and the joy in my feet.” (Angelou, Stanza 2) This point of view and evidence raises an important question, and yet, both do not cover the variety of depth of identity throughout life as the way we are raised and social influence. Ultimately, what is at stake here is distinctiveness and individuality that makes everyone’s personal identity