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Responses to questions on selfhood in american literature and an analysis of selected passages of the grapes of wrath - Essay Example

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Responses to questions on selfhood in american literature and an analysis of selected passages of the grapes of wrath

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 writing 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. ...
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 portrays 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 Griersons are 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.
It can be inferred that Miss Emily spent most of her youth conforming to ...Show more
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Summary

Dictionary.com defines the word "selfhood" as: 1) the state of having a distinct identity or individuality; 2) the fully-developed self or an achieved personality; and 3) self-centeredness. Smith takes the idea of selfhood further by saying that "the way we as humans come to know ourselves, to experience our bodies and to place ourselves in relation to others changes - over time, and between cultures - can be to challenge something essential." He further asserts that in the idea of selfhood, the person separates himself from the society, and the body becomes the container of his individuality…
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