Maintaining Identity Without a Supporting Culture
The book, “Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America”, written by Theodora Kroeber (mother of of Ursala K. Le Guin) came out the same year I graduated from High School, so it never made it to my school reading list. Years passed before I had cause to pick it up and read this fascinating story after taking on a self-study course in anthropology and linguistics. At the time it was a poignant story, one which held my interest, but which actually meant not so much to me as it does today.
These days, as a writer, I find myself always thinking about characters; who they are, how they became as they are, and how they maintain their personalities in the midst of the turmoil of life.
I think, as a rule, that we allow ourselves to be moved, changed, evolved as the situation demands. We do so because we can. We do so because we are used to the input, the impact through endless feeds of information, that bombard us daily. It is easier for us to “roll with the blow” than to fight change… by and large.
On the other hand, the older we get the more entrenched we become. What is good is what we were brought up with. What is bad is that which challenges the ideas we hold.
Think I’m wrong? I don’t care what age you are, I’ll bet there is a fad, an idea, a bit of music… something, that is new that you just don’t like.
This is not to say you won’t change your mind down the road, you probably will; especially if said objectionable thing takes on wide, even Universal popularity.
The question I present to you today has to do with personal identity.
Ishi, the character from the book mentioned above, was the last of the Yahi Indians. He came out of hiding, driven by hunger, despite his fear of the whites who had slaughtered his people, his family. He had to learn to cope with the white world.
Here is the question: Can someone sustain an identity without a supporting culture to which that identity is defined?
Getting a hook into the idea of identity with and without its cultural support is a valid question. Think about how such a change would impact you.
How would it impact one of your characters?