Personal Identity in Literature

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The various institutions people come in contact with represent a crucial component of modern society that parades more than one fundamental activity or particular function. Without such institutions, present-day societies would be unable to prevail and within a society is one’s identity. The various functions within institutions take part in shaping human social life for which they are all dependent on each other for the conduct of their corresponding functions. One such institutions that takes on the role of constructing one’s identity, which is highly influenced by motivation, confidence, and self-esteem, are schools. Schools remain the one place that takes up a considerable portion of a student’s life and for the purpose, they are highly influenced by what goes on there. In Cathy Davidson’s essay “Project Classroom Makeover”, she clarifies that schools and the education system need to take a step back and reevaluate their methods. She suggests they need to become innovative and dynamic to keep students engaged in the system. She believes an education that is led by students can be beneficial.

Jean Twenge in her essay “An Army of One: Me” argues the modern educational systems are favoring self-esteem over criticism which furthering the damage on the student’s identity and lastly Susan Faludi in “The Naked Citadel” argues the academy is stripping students of their identities through the academy's actions and traditions. All three of the authors are depicting similar themes that are all coordinating to the essential point of one’s identity is being affected. With that said, it is important note that to recognize a school’s responsibility to develop one’s identity, one needs to reevaluate the school itself. They can influence one’s identity either negatively or positively or in some cases the student decides to determine the amount of influence the school should have on them.

The Citadel is an emblem for the surviving nature of traditional gender roles; it has met with various challenges to maintain an environment of severity, manhood and military refinement. In her essay, she focuses on the assorted behaviors displayed inside the Citadel. For the fourth-class system, Faludi claims that the Citadel hopes “to ‘strip’ each young recruit of his original identity and remold him into the ‘whole man’” (Faludi 75). This is essential to understand because this is a prime example of a system illustrating their role of identity within a society which then can be characterized as an array of interactions between humans in demeaning situations, shaping the overall person in the end. As she witnessed, various behaviors displayed by the students in the academy, hazing stood out being the prominent problem. In this case, the upperclassmen would direct their anger and violence down upon the freshmen in order to convey an aggressive message.

Exclusively, they aimed for the freshmen athletes. She construes these events by saying “a member of the cycling team was forced to hang his fingers over a sword poised two inches below his testicles” (Faludi 186). This speculates the idea that the upperclassmen are unafraid of anyone or anything. They want to make sure that everyone knows they dominate the environment including the most conspicuous of underclassmen. Deeper than that, their actions show the power and influence they have over the Citadel. They continuously prove that they are capable of transforming the identity of incoming freshmen as well as underclassmen by stripping away what they value most; safety and guidance. By establishing a bleak environment for the cadets, they will be fit to command and dominate them in ways they desire which is purely done through control.

One’s personal identity would be profoundly influenced by the core teaching taught to students today. Teachers would see the world in a normalized way due to their typical experiences. They would observe the classroom for what it would be from a culture position and expect everyone to share their identities. Students, however, would see this as the teacher not being able to understand their situation. Cathy Davidson speaks out about how a student’s identity would be affected and brings up whether or not that student should continue attending school. As the issue for maintaining one’s identity, Duke felt the need to bring technology into the picture which would improve the student’s interest as well keep them engaged. Davidson described the iPod experiment as “an investment in a new form of attention, one that didn’t require students to always face forward, learn from on high, memorize what was already a given, or accept knowledge as something predetermined and passively absorbed” (Davidson 54).

The students had come up with their own way of incorporating innovative idea to make the device more useful in the classroom. Each student came up with a disparate idea, there was diversity in the different programs presented at the end of the experiment. She also mentions, “by giving the iPods to the first-students, we ended up with a lot of angry sophomores, juniors and seniors. They’d paid hefty private-university tuitions too! So we relented and said any student could have a free iPod—just so long as she convinced a prof to require one for a course and came up with a learning app in that course” (Davidson 51). Each student was eventually influenced by the other and together decided to act upon what kind of app they would come up with. This was the main starting point that initiated the motivation for students to become more engaged and interested. Not only was this beneficial for the university, but it displayed a culture that established both ideas and identities within the community.

People today, are more concerned with themselves rather than coinciding with others around them. They tend to establish their needs before others which further encourage students to maintain their façade of narcissism. Twenge promptly makes a concerning argument that Generation Me is based precisely on entitlement. The sole concern is this generation tends to focus on the fact that its automatically the best without having to earn it. They do not need to try; it is just given to them. This leads to a “cotton candy sense of self with no basis in reality” (Twenge 57). She mentions this kind of entitlement exhibits a direct correlation to selfishness.

The modern generation sincerely believe they are entitled to only focus on themselves, disregarding everyone else solely due to the claim that they have been the best from the start. They have become so self-absorbed and preoccupied with themselves that they do not think to go beyond themselves and lose the idea that they get what they feel they deserve. The idea of self presents an essential point of examination during their existence to which is defined as their identity in this current generation. As Twenge mentions “Generation Me had no need to reincarnate [themselves]; [they] were born into a world that already celebrated the individual” (Twenge 490). These people never thought to explore or discover other facets of life or their what their existence holds beyond their own selfhood. (ENDING)

Various factors contribute to a person’s identity; like confidence, self-esteem or even motivation. Institutions like schools are a part of a more comprehensive picture because they represent the center of creating and developing one’s personal identity. In Cathy Davidson’s essay, she suggests that the education system needs to be relooked at because their current methods do not align with current expectations. She argues they need to become more innovative and creative with the way they handle their students and their core teaching methods. Providing the students the opportunity to control education in their direction can be foreseen as beneficial in the future. Jena Twenge in her essay argues educational systems are more focused on making sure student’s feelings are not getting hurt instead of preparing them for what is ahead. Lastly, Susan Faludi claims that the Citadel, an academy strictly for military men, is stripping these individuals of their identity through their actions and traditions that make the school what it is. Knowing that schools are a major key point in shaping one’s individuality and identity, it can either lead to a positive ending or a negative one but in such cases, students in addition have the option to determine how much impact the institution will have on them in making who they become in the future.

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Personal Identity in Literature. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved April 13, 2024 , from

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