Comforting Skin

The following is an essay written as an example for my Core 4 students. Their essays, as well as mine, is part of a multi-cultural novel unit and persuasion unit focused on the concept of change. My essay is a work in progress, and should be treated as such.

Identity is art. It is craft. It is make-believe. There is truly no such thing as a personal identity, only one that we have constructed to look like someone we would want to be. In reality, we are all swirling around within our own skin, looking for something to hold on to long enough to call our own. Comfort is a luxury we do not have when it comes to identity. We must exist in a constant flux as to who we are and what we want. Race, sexual orientation, personality: these are the things that complicate this process. Discomfort in our own skin is the constant state of our lives because of pressures from each other, ourselves, and our societal environment.

Relationships affect action. The connection made with another person requires a deliberate change in identity. You must shift into your mode of friendship with this person, remembering all of the things that you have done with this person, all of the things that this person doesn’t like, all of the things that will be of value only to this relationship. This creates discomfort within the skin you were born into, chafing against the way you must act with other people. In the book, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, Jeremy Simms never feels comfortable within in his own skin because he is constantly having to change his identity for his white family and his black friends. This change is most obvious in a passage when he must try to live within both identities at the same time. In talking to a black friend he must stutter out, “She d-did, Pa. R-right now, ‘fore y’ll come, she did–” His white father cuts him short with “an angry gaze upon his son” causing Jeremy to “falter” and “[hang] his head.” This stutter is emblematic of the discomfort that Jeremy feels when talking to his father in the presence of his black friend. He is so uncomfortable that he cannot speak clearly. When forced to get back to his “white” relationship, he can no longer say the words that he most desires to. His relationship with others is directly responsible for paining his identity.

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