Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

Search of Identity in Society

Category Identity
Essay type Research
Words 719 (2 pages)
Views 359

Identity can be generally defined as the personal characteristics and traits which differentiate each individual from the other, however in “The myth of the Latin woman: I just met a girl named Maria” by Cofer, Judith Ortiz and “The joy of reading and writing: superman and me” by Alexei Sherman, both authors demonstrate the theme identity in a different manner. Judith Cofer portrays how the society often stereotype individuals into groups without a doubt, in this particular essay, the offensive stereotype of Latino women without any particular reason but merely due to their identity.

Alexei Sherman in “The joy of reading and writing: superman and me” also describes how society can have an impact on one’s identity; however Alexei was determined to build himself and challenge the society despite of its expectations. Similarities in this particular comparison overcome the differences; the similarities which are clearly seen between these two short stories are how the society belittles people and stereotype them simply due to their identity. Another common theme between both stories is multiculturalism and how it’s faced.

The difference however is how each author dealt with this stereotyping and how they defined their own identity despite of how people interrupted it for them. Expectations can alter the way a person feels about living their life the way they desire. Society determines and expects a role that every individual must perform according to who they are such as: age, gender, race, ethnic etc. In the essay the “The joy of reading and writing: superman and me”, the author talks about his life as an Indian boy and how writing and reading shaped his life to what it is today.

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Sherman talks about how as an Indian boy living in a reservation in the United States, Indians were expected to fail and be uneducated; but because he was “smart, arrogant and lucky” he broke the mold and became a creative writer. In Cofer’s case there were no mold’s to be broken but merely society’s perception about Latinas. She collects all the misconceptions of Latin women, comparing them with her personal experiences Our perception of anything can change and the way we view our selves can sometimes be altered by the events that happen in our life, our self-image and self-esteem can be also altered by these events too.

Cofer, in her autobiographical short story describes how she feels like an object of sexual desire and a person of lower class because of her Puerto Rican ethnicity. She starts the essay by reliving an incident which happened to her with a drunken man who re-enacted “Maria” from West Side Story even though she was aggravated, she tried to keep her cool when everyone around her was laughing and applauding. The author shows how the society degrades her because she is simply Latina regardless of the fact that is she an educated women seeking knowledge from Oxford university.

Later she states, "I do not wear my diplomas around my neck"- By this Cofer implies that there are many other women exactly like her, Latin women who do have the advantage of an education, however other individuals within societies racial misconceptions lead them to believe that every Latin woman is either a "housemaid" or a "counter girl"- which is obviously not the case. Cofer continues to subjectively analyses and defends the negative stereotypes that Latin women encounter.

Since something can be natural in a determined culture and offensive in another, it is easy to find a variety of behaves that are misunderstood. This misunderstood is what promotes the existence of prejudice. She collects all the misconceptions of Latin women, comparing them with her personal experiences. Eventually the author tries to deliver a message, a “universal truth”, is to try to replace the old pervasive stereotypes, individuals should not be judged entirely due to their place of origin, “skin color, accent or cloths” but should be seen for who they truly are.

Cofer emphasizes that “we cannot change this (the myth of Latina as whore, domestic or criminal) by legislating the way people look at us the transformation, as I see it, has to occur at a much more individual level”. Again this is something which is also seen in Sherman’s essay and it’s evident from his writing. Sherman says he saw the world in paragraphs, this is a metaphoric term he created.


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