Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Changing Yourself versus Changing Who You Are

Of all the relationships Jasmine encounters and cultivates throughout the novel, I found the story between her and Du the most telling. In the opening pages of the story, I noted Jasmine’s comparison of her son to herself as the “ones who didn’t get caught” (28). Rather than say, they were the “ones who got away,” she calls attention to their similar good fortune, examining their like situations for their luck or destined fate. Unlike Jasmine, however, Du takes on a different reaction to the American culture, taking physical ownership of his possessions and material items. Whereas Jasmine absorbs American soil through her emotional experiences and human interactions, Du demands to be on his own and paint his own portrait of the country.

When speaking with Du’s teacher, Jasmine laments, “Once we start letting go – let go just one thing, like not wearing our normal clothes, or a turban or not wearing a tika on the forehead – the rest goes on its own down a sinkhole” (29). As we discussed in class on Tuesday, attempting to become someone “else” is almost always impossible. Ironically, it seems as if this task should be as simple as changing our names, our clothing style, the way we wear our hair, or how we speak. As aspects of us that we ourselves control, it seems almost ignorant to say, “You can’t change yourself.” Then how come it is so darn impossible? As Jasmine’s character suggests, it isn’t so much about “changing yourself” as it is about “changing who you are.”

Until I read this book, I never really considered the difference that exists between these two similar, although remarkably different concepts. In my opinion, changing yourself would be akin to breaking an old habit, embodying a new outlook on life, or taking on a new hobby – controllable aspects of our lives. Changing who you are, however, reminds me of the uncontrollable, internal qualities tied to our individual souls. Even if I tried to change who I was, I would still be connected to my mother and father, younger sister, and the home where I have lived for the past nineteen years. The memories I have made in our home, once an old school house, are ingrained in who I have become as a person beyond my address. Growing our “Peter Rabbit” garden together each summer, the first time I painted my own room, my sister’s swing set, and roasting marshmallows on the back porch are all memories that define who I am. I could say I want to change myself, but it would be impossible to leave behind the connection to my home for how it defines my identity.

Jasmine, too, acknowledges this difference as she explores her new life in America, while still maintaining ties to her homeland in India. “We murder who we were,” she says, “so we can rebirth ourselves in the images of dreams” (29). The “murdering,” however, is done by her alone as she decides what to hold onto and what to reject in her new life. Jasmine views her life as truly definable only by her, despite the setbacks and prejudices that attempt to disrupt her journey. In comparison, Du’s character prefers to tangibly hold onto the pieces of his life as evidence that he belongs. “He’s a materialist, no question,” Jasmine describes, “What he owns seems to matter less than owning itself (30). His means of feeling safe and secure, Du holds onto the physical objects that remind him of his life in America. Jasmine, conversely, holds onto the memories, experiences, and dreams allowing them to remain a part of who she is. Neither character is more right than the other, but both demonstrate the innate desire we have as human beings to belong to our home, be it tangible or intangibly.

Additionally, the most surprising thing I learned this semester was how very connected I am to my own home. Having lived in our house for over nineteen years, I never considered the possibility that my parents will one day move until taking this course. While this is quite saddening, I am grateful for having realized this now so that my family can continue to share and expand our love for our home. In addition to the physical structure of my house, the countless memories, milestones, and setbacks that have occurred within its walls have given me a spiritual outlook on what the definition of home truly means. My homeland is more than just the area in which I live or the neighbors I have; it is the intertwining of each and every day spent in the same location and with the same group of people. Whether I realized it before I took this class or if these novels and discussions have led me to it, my homeland is a part of me that remains unchangeable. It runs through my blood as a part of who I am and who I continue to become.

No comments:

Post a Comment