Identity & Belonging Essay
‘Our sense of self is very vulnerable to external pressures’ In everyday life, humans are surrounded with pressures that can influence the formation of their identity. External pressures such as the environment we live in, the culture we belong to and the presence of other people, are often uncontrollable and can have a crucial impact on our sense of self. This idea is explored in great depth in Ray Lawyer’s classic Australian play, “The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll”, where it is reflected how these basic external pressures help to define different characters.
It is also mistreated, however, that embedded within individuals are internal demands, to which our sense of self can be equally vulnerable to. Our identity can be derived in great part from our environments. Whether it be our home, school, work or sporting club, each of these external aspects can have a larger impact on our sense of self than we realizes. Demonstrated by Lealer, Enema’s Carlton boarding house in the play provides his central characters with an environment to which helps form part of their identities. The ‘lay-off has become an annual routine and thus is the reason why
Olive fails to leave the past behind her and ‘come out of [her] day-dream long enough to take a grown-up look at the lay-off. ‘ The tropics of North Queensland are home to ROR and Barney for seven months of the year, where they spend their days ‘slogging it out under the sun’ working as cane-cutters. This idea of people being shaped by their environment is also evident in ‘The Cane-cutters’, a short Youth film, made by The National Film Board (1948), where the men are made to be tough due to the exhausting and physical work they do; ‘stoop, chop, straighten, top’.
The men’s’ identities are influenced greatly by their physical environment and occupation, as they would not be able to survive in that type of setting without doing so. Ones’ sense of self can be influenced by the culture to which they belong to. A nation’s identity provides individuals with norms and standards to conform to, which allows us to be accepted in society. In the post-World War II years, in the sass’s, Australians’ were depicted as strong, masculine, confident men who were well known for their metathesis, friendly nature and larrikin.
This explanation of the metathesis represented amongst the Australian men during was is reflected in Alexander Harrier’s novel ‘Settlers and Convicts’, where he notes that ‘[Australian] Men stand by one another through thick and thin’. This label, along with many others, can help to define other individuals apart of the Australian culture, as they may feel as though they need to uphold this Australian identity that is perceived by others. Lealer explores this idea also, through ROR and Barney, who are described as ‘a couple’ kings’, when in reality they are aging and broken men.
Both men fail to inform Olive on the truth behind ROR Walk[ins] out on his own team’ as they are ashamed to be emasculated and voice the fact that they no longer promote the typical’ Australian male identity. Thus, Lealer has demonstrated how his characters have been defined by the Australian culture for so long and struggle to rebuild their identity when they can no longer uphold who they once were. The quote “you are your own worst enemy’ reflects at large how an individual’s thoughts and inner-self can be a pressure that shapes and defines who we are.
Our identity can be formed through our perspective on the world and where we see ourselves in it. Lealer accentuates this idea through his plays protagonist, Olive, who has a similar outlook on life to ‘a little girl about twelve years old’. Olive is adamant to leave behind the ‘happy days ‘n glamorous nights’ of the lay-off, as it is clear that her identity lies firmly in the past. Olive has created an inflexible identity, where she only wants What she had before’. She is physically unable to change and grow, as she loses control like ‘an animal’ hen her identity is threatened.
Lealer clearly demonstrates through this, the idea that oneself can be the ultimate pressure that is holding an individual back, from growing and developing their identity. The movie ‘The Black Swan’ similarly presents this idea, where the protagonist is at war with herself and her identity is sculpted around her endeavourer to be nothing but the ‘perfect ballerina’. It is through these notions that the audience can see how our inner-self can in fact act as a pressure that plays a detrimental part in our identity make-up.
As social beings, humans like interacting and being connected to things other than themselves. It is therefore no surprise that our sense of self is often shaped by these external factors to which we are associated to. Our environment and what surrounds us plays an enormous role in defining ones sense of self, as individuals are seen to become, to an extent, products of their environment. Similarly, a national identity can influence the persona of people, as trying to conform to our culture meaner that our values, beliefs and morals mirror those accepted by society.
However, our identity is not only vulnerable to the external pressures we face every day, but also those internal forces that can influence an individual’s identity immensely. We can see that perhaps our internal pressures are the ultimate deciding force that determines the fate of our identity, as it is the only pressure to which we control. EXTENDED RESPONSE In my piece, I wanted to highlight how although an individual’s sense of self is in fact very vulnerable to external pressures, it is not the only way our identities can be shaped. As humans, we are very much in control of our thoughts, decisions and actions.
This idea leads me to the thought that perhaps we are often our own pressure, which influences our identity in certain directions. I decided to address the prompt ‘Our sense of self is very vulnerable to external pressures’ through the form of an Expository essay. This form allowed me to methodically work through and explore the key ideas associated to the context ‘Identity and Belonging. An essay enabled me to explore the influences of external and internal pressures on ones identity, in terms of our environment, other individuals, culture and our inner-self, in a clear and understandable manner.
Through Ray Lawyer’s play ‘The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’ I scrutinized the prompt through his characters, Olive, ROR, Barney, Bubby and Johnnie Dodd. I used the ideas presented in Lawyer’s play, along with various other supplementary texts to show how although an individual’s identity can be greatly influenced by differing external factors that arise in our everyday life, it can be seen how individuals can ultimately be the ones holding their identity back room growing and reaching its full potential.
My piece was aimed at an audience of VICE teachers, students and assessors, as well as a wider audience of those who find that their identity can be swayed by external pressures and even themselves at times. As such, my language choices are very deliberate – a mature and formal vocabulary is required, as my intended audience would expect it. This topic also requires a thoughtful approach, thus an essay structure allows me to present an organized discussion to help me demonstrate the sophisticated ideas I want my audience to realizes.