Clash of identity Essay

This essay has a total of 1077 words and 6 pages.

Clash of identity

Clash of Identity

The difference between Rodriguez's struggle between identity and Angelou's struggle is
that, Angelou's identity's center of focus is her name, while Rodriguez's identity seems
to revolve around his "complexion". Although they both wrote about the struggle with their
own identity, the views and attitude of the two authors differ. In Richard Rodriguez's
essay "Complexion" and Maya Angelou's essay "Mary" both authors illustrate some hardships
they faced during their life, such as their experience with racism and prejudice. In spite
of the fact that they are both faced with similar situations, the actuality that sets
apart their characters is how they dealt with each of their situations.

Rodriguez attitude about himself during his childhood was largely influenced by his
family, especially his mother, "Dark skin was for my mother the most important symbol of a
life of oppressive labor and poverty."(Rodriguez. 451), people who worked in fields and
construction sites spent most of their time under the sun, causing their "complexion" to
darken, so it was assumed that a person with dark skin was a menial laborer. Rodriguez's
mother would commonly point out his dark complexion by comparison with the poor and the
black, at one time she told Rodriguez, "You look like a negrito… you won't be satisfied
till you end up looking like los pobres…"(Rodriguez 447). His mother's friends would
also often talk of what a burden or a curse it was, to have dark skin, "… it was a
woman's spoken concern: the fear of having a dark-skinned son or daughter."(Rodriguez
449), Rodriguez is illustrating that in his culture, people preferred light skin children
over dark skin, knowing that a light skinned child would not face as much prejudice a dark
skinned child would growing up. In contrast, Margaret wasn't ashamed of her skin, or being
of different color, she was proud of her race and ethnicity, at the beginning she
expresses her pride through her relatives accomplishment, "…my grandmother had owned the
only Negro general merchandise store since the turn of the century."(Maya 3), this she
said to a Texas women, when asked about her hometown.

Rodriguez and Angelou both expressed their struggled in search for their own identity in
their essay. Margaret's identity was compromised when Margaret was called out of her
original name. Margaret's name was casually changed by Mrs. Cullinan, "That's too long
she's Mary from now on"(Maya 6). Margaret reciprocated by taking her revenge upon Mrs.
Cullinan. Margaret struggles between Mary and Margaret, Margaret her true self, a free
person, an individual, and Mary, a menial laborer, a servant inferior to Mrs. Cullinan, a
person who toyed with Margaret's name as if it was her possession. Rodriguez on the other
hand, shaved his arms to change his skin complexion, to get away from being stereotyped
and opinionated as a menial laborer by his relatives, due to his dark skin. Rodriguez's
relatives often spoke of his complexion, "In my mind I heard the swirling voices of aunts,
and even my mother's voice, whispering, whispering incessantly about lemon juice solutions
and dark, feo children"(Rodriguez 455), in his culture, lemon juice was believed to
lighten a persons skin. Rodriguez's mother would habitually use this treatment on him, the
only actual thing this remedy did, was make Rodriguez feel even more of an outcast, more
ashamed of his true self.

The difference, however, between Angelou and Rodriguez was that Rodriguez's dilemma wasn't
his skin complexion, but what others thought of his skin complexion, for instance
Rodriguez illustrates, "I didn't consider my dark skin to be a racial characteristic…I
judged myself ugly… I felt my dark skin made me unattractive to women."(Rodriguez 455),
unlike Rodriguez, Angelou was confident enough in herself to speak of Mrs. Cullinan in a
demeaning way, "Mrs. Viola Cullinan was a plump woman…her face looked like the mask of
an impish elf."(Maya 4) this shows that Margaret's attitude is different than that of
Rodriguez, Rodriguez didn't once speak negatively about anyone, while in fact, he was
spoken of in a negative way.

Racism also played a role on both Rodriguez's and Angelou's lives. An incident that shows
discrimination in Angelou's essay is when Angelou mentions the segregated dishes, "I had a
glass to drink from, and it sat with Miss Glory's on a separate shelf from the others."
(Maya 4), this shows that Mrs. Cullinan was racist and she showed it openly through the
act of segregation. Rodriguez experienced a different kind of discrimination, when he was
young, he was a victim of racist name calling, "A teenager drove past shouting, Hey,
Greaser! Hey, Pancho!, I pee on dirty Mexicans…."(Rodriguez 450), this was an obvious
attack on Rodriguez's complexion and culture, but he didn't take any action towards the
prejudice he received from his schoolmates. "I would be paralyzed with embarrassment,
unable to return the insult"(Rodriguez 450), he didn't react to such a clear act of racism
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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