Issues of Identity in 19th Century American Literature

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To begin with, identity is and has been one of the most common themes in literature. These issues of identity are strongly connected with emotions, with the society or with the cultural background. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about personal identity, multiple identity, feminine identity, the identity of a group, or why not, the identity of an entire nation. They are all related with what I’ve mentioned above. In this essay, I am going to talk about identity issues triggered by emotion, by social or cultural background. The first text which I am going to use as an example is A White Heron, written by Sarah Orne Jewett and published in 1886. This is the first text that we’ve discussed in the seminar. This is a short story about a little girl, Sylvia, who lives in a little house in the middle of the forest with her grandmother. The main character finds herself in such a situation that she has to make a choice between nature, her home, and the temptation, represented here by money. Nine-year-old Sylvia is living with her grandmother after having moved from the city. The forest is now part of her home. In the beginning of the story, Sylvia and the cow return home. The cow is personified here. She is even given a name, Mistress Mooly. Sylvia and the cow seem to be in perfect harmony, symbolizing Sylvia’s relationship with nature. Another argument to that is even the girl’s name, Sylvia meaning forest in Latin. On their way home, they come across an ornithologist, searching a very rare bird, to kill and stuff it, in the name of science. This man reminds Sylvia of a little boy from the city that used to chase and scare her. The man asks for shelter and for the little girl’s help, offering money in exchange. After agreeing to help him, and after finding the bird the ornithologist was looking for, Sylvia decides not to give away nature’s secret as a favor to

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