Anarchy in the Tenth Grade Term Paper

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[. . .] At age fifteen, he says he explicitly 'went punk.' Now, rather than accepting his lower social status in terms of clothing, he made his own clothing a statement about his identity. By cutting up his own clothing and cutting his own hair, he made a statement about himself, that he did not need a great deal of money to look the way he wanted to look. Neither his mother's poverty nor his parent's wealth could define his appearance. His body was his own. He was an anarchist, a punk, and proud that he did not fit in with the crowd. Looking different and feeling different, he states, were synonymous in the punk movement.

Graffin writes his essay in retrospect, so he is also critical of his fifteen-year-old anarchist self. He admits that he looked upon women mainly in highly objectified terms. He was not interested in the alternative perspective of women as individuals. Rather he was interested in the way they looked. This added, adult perspective enriches his essay, however, much more than it would if he wrote it simply from the perspective of his older, fifteen-year-old self. Rather than simply expressing frustrated anger about not fitting in, the essay highlights how a child's sense of alienation can be channeled into positive areas. Poverty of clothing becomes a distain for materialism and expressing one's self through tatters. An inability to be part of Los Angeles, middle-class suburban culture forces an adolescent boy to take refuge in his musical talent as well as his anger.

Graffin is interesting, however, also because his life cannot be fully encapsulated by a conventional 'punk' narrative. He meets his future wife not in the standard punk 'Sid and Nancy' relationship of musician and groupie, but because both of them attended the same college and took the same class critical of American culture. Graffin's decision to seek higher education shows that he is not simply a mindless follower of any movement, either the music scene or the suburban wasteland of the 1970's. Graffin says that to attend college is not a punk gesture. Without saying so explicitly, the author may feel this way because to attend college means that an individual still has an interest in learning about previous schools of thought and cultural movements from the past, rather than simply seeking identity through a singular musical, cultural movement of 'the moment.' But the author, quite evidently felt that he benefited from this decision, as he discovered his wife in this location. His praise of college life suggests that his anarchism and love of punk was a positive form of self-expression but that his self-expression could never be fully hemmed in by any social movement, even one as valuable as punk. Eventually, Graffin decided to pursue graduate school, because he was so taken by the intellectual environment of university life.

Graffin stresses in the essay that he has grown up, and to a certain extent emotionally moved on beyond his punk roots. He is no longer limited by his family's need to live in the environment of Los Angeles. He has traveled, partly as a result of completing his M.A. In Geology, to locals as diverse as Bolivia and Mexico. He no longer has to define his identity like an adolescent, through clothing and hair, although he has continued to live as a musician. His identity is found within the confines of his family, as he is now a father to a son and a daughter himself. His daughter's presence is a particular rebuke, he suggests, of how women were often viewed and treated within the context of the punk movement.

But punk, Graffin also states, transcends certain clothing and commercialized codes of behavior. Punk is an attitude, he states, that encourages individuals to question who and what they are. Punk is not simply a safety pin through the skin, or a t-shirt bearing a particular slogan, or even the music that defined the movement. It is the demand that one question the dominant paradigm of one's society.

Because he could not conform to this paradigm, of 1970's suburban adolescent Los Angeles, Graffin found punk, and it made his struggle and search for self more fruitful in intellectual and social as well as emotional terms. [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Format

Anarchy in the Tenth Grade.  (2003, October 9).  Retrieved January 28, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Anarchy in the Tenth Grade."  9 October 2003.  Web.  28 January 2020. <>.

Chicago Format

"Anarchy in the Tenth Grade."  October 9, 2003.  Accessed January 28, 2020.