Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The search for self-identity

In class on tuesday, we talked about the universal nature of Sedaris's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and the themes that make it so universal and relatable. I think one of these themes that Sedaris touches on frequently is the idea of identity. Everyone, at some point in their life, struggles to define themselves and to form a strong sense of self-identity. Throughout the book, Sedaris and some of the other members of his family deal with these issues and are able to define themselves in certain ways in the process.
As the narrator, Sedaris's own struggle with self-identity is the most prominent throughout the book. One of the first times where the idea of self-identity appears is when Sedaris talks about the social hierarchy within his middle school. As in virtually every school, there is a group of popular kids that seem to stand apart from, and are looked up to by, the rest of the school population. Sedaris and his sisters aren't a part of this group but are in awe of its members. David automatically classifies himself based upon his relation to this group. Even though he realizes he is not that much different from any of the members, he believes that he is lacking some special quality that is only acquired upon admission to the group: "It didn't matter what you were like on your own. The group would make you special". Looking back upon his time in school, though, Sedaris questions his readiness to define himself through comparison with the popular kids: "What if I'd wasted my entire life comparing myself with people who didn't really matter?"
Another time when Sedaris searches for a way to define himself is when he tries to become a hippie. He does this by asking for money just like the hippies in order to buy a suede vest and hip-huggers. His efforts ultimately fall through, though, when the hippie girl he tries to impress calls him a poser.
Sedaris isn't the only one in his family that searches for different ways to define himself. In the chapter, The Ship Shape, when Sedaris and his mom are in the laundromat, they overhear a wealthy woman describing her many homes. After they leave, he and his mom practice saying "My home -well, one of my homes". His mom tells Sedaris that that will be them someday - they will be people who own more than one home.
Sedari's struggle with self-identity as he grows up is something that happens to everyone at some point during their life. Also, as illustrated by his mom, the search for self-definition is a life-long one. Because of this, I think, as well as many other aspects of the book, Sedaris is able to connect with the reader on a personal level.

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