Within the texts "I'm "wife"-I've finished that", "One need not be a Chamber -- to be Haunted" and "Flesh and the Mirror", there is a thematic exploration of identity. After reading all the texts, the audience establish a strong feeling that most women at some stage in their lives go through a struggle to discover their true identity. Angela Carter wrote the autobiographical story "Flesh and the Mirror" in 1974, recalling a day and a half period in the streets of Tokyo. Carter turns herself into a character of melodrama, replacing her normal identity with an unfamiliar abandoned unknown. The persona weeps and walks through the streets of Tokyo, trying to locate her lost lover. Similarly, Emily Dickinson's poems "I'm "wife"-I've finished that" and "One need not be a Chamber -- to be Haunted" also deal with female identity. During the 19th century, many women were demeaned and influenced by most men to believe that they were worth almost nothing, only worthy of bearing children. This excessive male domination made many women feel trapped in their own homes, powerless to escape from the misery. The character in the poem perhaps hides her previous self and identity by pretending as the "wife" - to be someone she is not. In "One need not be a chamber", Dickinson uses Gothic tropes in each stanza of the poem to juxtapose internal and external dangers, making the point that inner confusions and insecurities are far scarier than facing an "External Ghost" and therefore, the persona's greatest struggle is with her own identity.
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Being married, the character feels uneasy because of the change that occurs in her identity but she feels culturally obligated to perform the role of a "wife". She does not seem happy to have been married but is trying to adjust to life as a "wife". The antithesis used in the last stanza represented by words "comfort" and "pain" orchestrate the idea of pain and sorrow in a balanced stanza to emphasise the contrast between the two consequences of being married by comparing these consequence on an emotional scale represented by the words "pain" and "comfort". The instructive poetry, which is a feature of didactic poetry first used by the writers of Greek literature such as Hesiod is exercised in the final part of the poem. The phrase "Stop there" attempts to instruct readers not to further analyze the effects of marriage on a woman's life as the persona sees no point in doing so: she will not be able to go back to her girlhood life. It's a moment of epiphany which makes the "wife" realise that she is obliged by the society to remain under her husband's control and that she ought not try and escape the reality. The point which Dickinson aims to make through this poem is that, we should not do what the persona in the poem does and hide our true identity, we should be proud of ourselves, regardless of society's expectations.
While the character in "I'm wife" is trying to adjust to life as a "wife", the character in the short story "Flesh and the Mirror" is trying to run away from her real identity. Carter applies the extended metaphor of a mirror to explore the interrelation between real identity and performed identity of the main protagonist in the story. The text begins with a self-conscious statement about the "heroine's" own self-dramatization: "It was midnight - I chose my times and set my scenes with the precision of the born artiste". Here, Carter might be making the point that the story itself is an imaginary one. The previous sentence successfully tells the audience that she is distancing her normal self as she tries to paint this phase of her life near to perfection by altering her identity. The choice of lexis "artiste" further proves the point that she is not herself at this point because she is using connotations of an actress's perfect fragment of life. The reader almost gets the impression that she is in a film set, performing according to her yearn for perfection. The lexis "chose" tells the reader that she is in control of her assumed film set; in her "imagination" she refers to herself as the "heroine". This section of the story uses many words that come from the semantic field of drama and film, thus showing she used these methods of interpretation to come to terms with the turmoil for being lost in her own mind. Since women's increasing freedom during this era, particularly in terms of their position during the 1970s, perhaps Carter was empowered to have the confidence to reveal the true events of her life, whereas had it been written in the early 19th Century as Dickinson's poetry was, she may have felt more judged by society. Carter was thus able to break free from the social norms and expectations and express her struggle for identity with tremendous details. During the 1970s, women fought for equality and achieved some great progress through much hardship and sacrifices. This might be one of the reasons why Carter wrote the story in direct speech as she might have lost the fear of social judgment.
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Carter's narrator makes an attempt at pulling the strings of the "puppet", which is herself but there are no such strings. The puppet master "I" becomes the puppet master "she". The shift of narration from first person to third person exemplifies her struggle for identity as herself being the narrator, she is unsure of what role she exactly plays. When the narrator and a stranger arrive at a hotel room with mirrors on the ceiling, the narrator is "beset" by the reflection of "a hitherto unconsidered notion" in the mirror which then forces her to realize who she really is. The metaphor of the "mirror" is used frequently in this section of the story to reiterate the idea that it is in that hotel room where she finds her real identity. The mirror has no sympathy towards her, thus makes her feel as if she is a stranger to her own self. The narrator says that "Mirrors are ambiguous things" possibly because she does not like truth they reveal. Moreover, the use of the word "hitherto" is considerably more elevated in register in comparison to most of the words within the story. This choice of this word almost seems out of place within the narrative and adds an extra layer to the story as she presents the two versions of herself and the word "hitherto" belongs to only one "version" of the narrator's identity.
However, "this mirror refused to conspire with me; it was like the first mirror I'd ever seen". Here readers see a disagreement between the narrator and the mirror. She is a stranger to her own body as she had not seen herself like this before this night. The repetition of "mirror" absorbs the readers into thinking that she is finding out her new identity as she is looking up in the mirror. Although her immediate response to this sight is to feel she had "acted out of character", she soon realizes that she is not sure who that "character" is, the character she achieved by "modification" of herself, again supporting the idea that she is unfamiliar with her real self. Then the mirror starts to crack, blurring the features of her new lover whom she has created "solely in relation" to herself. She makes the stranger who she wants him to be. As she takes the objective tone, she makes him the appropriate character that is fitting for her new fabricated identity.
Similarly, in "One need not be a Chamber", the poet carries out a comparison throughout the poem to show readers that many can be lost in their own mind if they do not know their real identity. Throughout the poem, Dickinson emphasises the power of one's "Brain" and the revolting pictures it can draw in someone's head. The use of the noun "Brain" emphasises to readers that it is "Far safer" to encounter a real "External Ghost" than an imaginary one, in your head. The metaphor "Chamber" compares the haunted house with human "brain" as a dwelling place with "Corridors" which can lead someone to uncharted places. Dickinson uses analogies such "Corridors", which is associated with a rat maze, where people struggle to discover a way out, to unearth answers to questions about their real identity. All of these fears come from the evil borne from the source of men's psychological fear of being out of control. It is a very important consideration, for "Far safer" is a comparative phrase that denotes the level of ability to maintain status quo, despite how it is used in much more monotonous language. Whether or not these are real problems is not the focal point, but rather that they are demonstrations of extremely treacherous and uncontainable things. However, men is not different than these imagined creatures, for here Dickinson is continuously pointing to the depths of the human mind for being the creator of these imaginary creatures and deploying power to them. Dickinson successively tries to establish and emphasise, through enjambment and aphorism, how terrifying mental problems can be. This subsequently relates to the theme of identity as the poet might be implying that people who struggle for identity may picture themselves as many different individuals in challenging situations like the ones described in the poem.
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Throughout the poem, Dickinson is trying to convey that the mind can uncover concealed part of one's self that are far scarier than anything in the outer world if one does not know their real identity. The poem itself has closed forms and varying metre and it contains an inconsistent rhyme scheme present in the second, third and fifth stanza which is structured as ABCB. Dickinson might have done this to deepen the meaning of the poem. Rhyming two or more words draws special attention to them and it helps connect them in reader's mind. The whole poem can be interpreted as a paradox, first stanza stating an individual does not require a haunted place to be haunted as the mind itself has enough corridors to cling to unimaginable horrors. The slant rhymes in this stanza are the words "House" and "Place". Anaphora in the stanza consists of the first phrase of the first two lines, "One need not be a". A particular emphasis is placed on these words to help readers understand that, their brain alone is sufficient to haunt them. Full rhyme is also clear in this stanza as she uses the words "Ghost" and "Host". Thermal imagery depictive with the description of "That Cooler Host" appears in this stanza and it is also an extended metaphor for the word "Ghost" in line two of the second stanza. Parallelism is used in this stanza and the following stanza, the phrases "Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting" and "Far safer, through an Abbey gallop" begin the first lines and "Than its interior Confronting" and "Than unarmed, one's a'self" begin the third lines. Dickinson repeats this phrase to make the readers believe what she believes and it helps get her point across more effectively to readers. The final stanza emerges as a declaration to the whole poem and repeats the ideas described in all stanzas. This stanza summarises that even the one that has locked all the doors physically, should be prepared to take on something more frightening than the outer "Ghosts" and "Assassins" if he/she has overlooked that true horror lies within their mind, as well as the madness and alter egos that are hidden in the "Corridors" of it.
To conclude, Carter and Dickinson both successfully explore the theme of identity within the texts and through different viewpoints, they convince the audience that one needs to search for their real identity. A thorough assessment on women's identity is explored through the eyes of the characters in each of the text which reassures the readers that almost all women, in the course of their lives go through a struggle to discover their real identity. The period which each text was written in also had an influence in terms of how successfully the characters in the texts were able to find their identity. In the early 19th Century, Dickinson comes to the ironic conclusion that if someone decides to let external factors influence their identity then their forlorn quest for identity should indeed "Stop there!" whereas, Carter suggests that identity is only achievable through the means of "acting out" and being "artful". Yet Carter shows the battle for acquiring real identity is still very much ongoing for her; perhaps this shows that things are not very different between the two eras. She is unwilling to be happy with her real self and her quest for identity continues.