I am a Shadow, the True Self
Island, the novel that Huxley considers to be his crown jewel, brings up the idea of true identity. Will, the protagonist, shipwrecked on the island of Pala where he spends about a month there, learning their culture. During this time, Will will follow a path of self discovery and come to terms with his past. Will’s past included an argument with his wife, Molly, that ended with him evicting her from his house. She left and tears, and died in a car crash (Huxley 1-5). As a result, Will puts on a “tough guy” attitude for the vast majority of the novel (approx. 90-95%). Towards the end of the novel, he goes on a guided spiritual journey to come to terms with his past and focus his attention on the present (Huxley 283-290). So during the discussion on Thursday (9/15) the line of “I-no I” became a major topic. In short, it’s idea of a person’s socially constructed self, and their true self. During that discussion, one thought kept coming to my mind, the concept of personas, particularly from the video game series Persona.
While Huxley’s novel is limited to reality in terms of how it can pull off the explanation of the “I-no I” line, Persona 4 can do so in a different way, such as making the alternate I, or persona, a physical entity. In persona, the socially constructed self is created by suppressing their emotions/self to fit into their role in society. If I take gender roles as an example (for biology came up during discussion), the character in the image, Naoto, aspires to become a detective, but after reading all the detective novels available to her, she discovers that they are are male. Therefore, she comes up with her new social image to act as a male to fit into the role. Eventually, shes crosses paths with her shadow, the repressed truth that she can not change who she is, and eventually embraces that fact. Naoto then replaces her social image as a male, and replaces it with her acting as a female as still aspiring to be a detective.
All that said, how does this apply to us? Simple. Each of us have multiple “personas” and possibly a “shadow”. The personas change from situation to situation. For instance, a business man acts with professionalism when working to make a sale, but when he goes out with his friends, his personality is no longer being a businessman, but a friend. While we may not actively think about how we act, the changes in our persona are different from situation to situation. In regards to the “shadow”, sometimes people have a secret that they don’t want others to know for they fear they might be treated differently by society. Theses secrets can place people in social stigma’s that are often times considered negative. Currently the United States is undergoing social change, gender identity being a hot topic especially. Until the whole of society learns to accept change, or refuse it, then the “shadows” will continue to exist.
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Huxley, Aldous. Island. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962. Print.