Identity Construction: National Identity, Or Gender And Class?

3144 words - 13 pages

Every person will identify themselves as having some sort of nationality. However, it is the conditions of classes and gender that affect the everyday lives of the individual. If the form of literature is an accurate reflection of public opinion, through the study of the novels The Wig My Father Wore, Anne Enright, and The Woman Who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle, we should see the terms by which contemporary Irish society identifies itself.

Firstly we should consider what a nation is and what represents it. As an English citizen thinks of Scotland, for example, they will be filled with images of tartan kilts and the highlands. But is this really what being Scottish is all about? Does anyone in Scotland really wear a kilt as part of their everyday life? From an English person's point of view it is possible to think of Scottish and Irish culture in the same way as that of Indian culture. This is orientalism in terms of Scotland and Ireland. An example of this is the fact that the English celebrate St. Patrick's Day purely because it is fashionable to do so, yet St Patrick's Day has no relevance to the English nation at all. This could suggest that the boundaries representing what is Scottish, Irish and English are blurring. Or indeed it could be considered to be a form of colonialism whereby Scotland and Ireland are subjective to England.

In terms of literature, perhaps the focus should be on the way different kinds of people are represented and how they represent themselves. Representation is the means by which people formulate their identity. Some may wish to discard their traditional national identity, whilst others make a strong effort to maintain it. Hence there is a continuous dialectic between received tradition and the desire to change that tradition. This can be seen particularly in women's writing. The Wig My Father Wore is an expression of women's empowerment by the sheer fact that it is written by a woman, with a woman as the central character. The Woman Who Walked into Doors, and similarly with Alan Warner's, Morvern Caller, shows a man's representation of a woman. But can a man really represent a woman's voice?

In The Wig My Father Wore, we see how Grace defines herself as a strong woman. Her high powered job in the media has caused her to sacrifice many of the qualities that are traditionally associated with the gender roles of Irish women. We see this in the use of her name `Grace'. She has changed her name from its Irish alternative `Grianne' to `Grace'. But why has she done this? Perhaps this is because in order to be accepted in the modern world she must not assert her national identity. Perhaps this is an example of the kind of colonialism I mentioned earlier, whereby the traditional culture of Ireland is submissive to that of England. Or perhaps it is Grace's own desire to discard her roots. The continuous dialectic between tradition and opposing tradition.

When she visits her...

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