Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Not so different after all

Personally, I find it wonderfully flowing that a part of our conclusion in class yesterday (Monday) was that not only do people acquire a feeling of home through a place or even a culture but through comfort with their own bodies. Elizabeth Gilbert expands greatly upon this idea in her Eat, Pray, Love. This can only be done, in my opinion, much in the way Gilbert goes about it: you must ask yourself about yourself, and hope that you can be honest.
Her journey out of the known, out of her comfort zone of New York and a settled life, is an extreme method of self discovery; I think few would argue that. But it does seem to be effective. “Learn your way around loneliness”, she says, and “never again use another person’s…emotions as a scratching post for your won unfulfilled yearnings” (65).
Yet his behavior is generally frowned upon in America…seen as selfish, greedy. Removing yourself from society’s place for you, from the people that you love is a rash, illogical act that most Americans would see as a kind of betrayal. As such it takes a brand of courage I don’t think we’ve yet seen for Elizabeth to stand against those expectations. Jasmine caves to those same forces time and time again; Okonkwo shatters under his perceptions of society’s rules; time and time again we see people moving along with cultural tides. Gilbert defies those.
But in this, isn’t she just as much a product of her environment as any of our other characters have been? By defying her culture’s expectations in order to find herself, she proves that she is just as effected by her surroundings as anyone. A journey for the self it may be, but it is always done in the context of her exterior (one could say “failed”) homeland. Yes, she is new in that she searches for home inside herself, but it is still the same journey, just with a different expressed purpose.
This said, her ability to defy those pressures makes her almost unique amongst our characters thus far. Leaving her husband and the life she knows, while some might see it as a betrayal, actually constitutes a strange act of courage, and her journey to find herself brings up an important question the most of the subjects of our other stories seem to have missed:
Are the problems we confront at home problems with home, or with us?

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