Identity Themes in Praisesong Research Paper

Pages: 7 (2538 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality

In this regard, Rhine reports that, "Yukio Mishima's Confessions of a Mask not only catapulted him into prominence as one of the top writers of postwar Japan when it was published in 1949, but also remains one of the most popular and most often taught and discussed of his novels today, more than twenty-five years after his spectacular death by ritual suicide in 1970" (222). This same search for true identity can be discerned in Shuttle Island wherein Leonardo DiCaprio discovers his true identity after a challenging and struggle-filled search involving a checkered past (Clarke 203). This self-discovery can also be discerned in Confessions of a Mask wherein Mishima suggests that process involved in developing and sustaining an alternative identity is difficult but it can be facilitated by making it a methodical process wherein the desired personae is assumed gradually but inextricably until it becomes real. For instance, Rhine points out that, "The narrator himself describes his construction of a heterosexual identity or mask as a disciplinary task" (223). Despite his best efforts, though, an inauthentic identity is impossible for the narrator to maintain because of the fundamental psychosexual problems that are associated with living a lie. In this regard, Rhine reports that, "The narrator's attempts to exercise or discipline his sexual performance so that he can pass as heterosexual prove futile. He is unable to get an erection during this visit to the brothel, and his friends suspect as much. Yet his emphasis that he can sustain a fabricated heterosexual performance by training his corporeal self to act the 'right' way comes surprisingly close to recent theorizing about gender as performance" (222). These issues are discussed in depth in Judith Butler's book, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity where the author argues that "gender identification is fashioned by an idealized coherence which is, in turn, an effect of a corporeal signification. In other words, acts, gestures, and desire produce the effect of an internal core or substance, but produce this on the surface of the body, through the play of signifying absences that suggest, but never reveal, the organizing principle of identity as a cause" (Rhine 222).

Research Paper on Identity Themes in Praisesong for Assignment

Living a lie, then, confirms the adage that a tangled web results, and when people try to conform to a self-imposed identity that betrays their true identity, the effort involved in sustaining a false identity can be enormous. This also suggests that these types of efforts are congruent with others who have sought to depict an identity that is contrary to their true identity. In this regard, Butler writes, "Such acts, gestures, enactments, generally construed, are performative in the sense that the essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means" (4). Using Butler's gender-based analysis as a theoretical framework, Rhine suggests that many people go through this very type of experience at some point in their lives as they seek to define their true sense of identity, and that this sense can change from time to time, and over time, and even from hour to hour as people struggle to respond to powerful environmental forces that compel them to adapt with one identity or another.

Certainly, everyone wears different hats all of the time in their different roles in life, brother or sister, father or mother, son or daughter, but many people also struggle to live their lives in ways that are culturally acceptable but which may otherwise conflict with their personal sense of true identity. For instance, Rhine reports that, "Mishima's narrative highlights the ways in which practices of cultural coherence (adherence to cultural definitions of heterosexuality, for example) shape a social space for the body through what Butler calls 'regulatory grids of intelligibility'" (222). If fact, Mishima's construction of culturally acceptable identity relies on scholarly sources and demonstrates real commitment to formulating an informed response to these environmental forces. For instance, Rhine notes that, "This is dramatized in Mishima's novel in that the novels and sex encyclopedias which the narrator consults to help him define and understand heterosexuality (scripts, of sorts, for his performance) can be read as literal examples of such regulatory grids" (222). In the post-World War II era in Japan in which Mishima found himself, there were few legitimate and culturally acceptable ways for the author to conceptualize his identity besides writing his thoughts down and sharing them with others. As Rhine concludes, "Using Butler's terminology again, the narrator fabricates a heterosexual identity by manufacturing and sustaining this mask through the discursive means available to him -- the act of writing the novel" (222).


What is a true identity? The research showed that people's sense of self-identity is shaped by a wide range of environmental factors, and that the search for true identity is an elusive and lifelong pursuit. For some people, the search is facilitated by a profound loss in their lives that compels them to search out the origins, while others search for their true identity by describing their lives in terms of what might be or could be if things in the real world were different from what they are. In the final analysis, the search for identity themes in Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall and Confessions of a Mask by Mishima are part of a growing collection of works by marginalized people who are searching for their true identities in a complex world.

Works Cited

Alexander, Simone A. Mother Imagery in the Novels of Afro-Caribbean Women. Colombia, MO:

University of Missouri Press, 2001.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge,


Clarke, Graham. (2012, February). "Failures of the 'Moral Defence' in the Films Shutter Island,

Inception and Memento: Narcissism or Schizoid Personality Disorder?" International

Journal of Psychoanalysis 93(1): 203-207.

Fister, Barbara. Third World Women's Literatures: A Dictionary and Guide to Materials in English. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Marshall, Paule. Praisesong for the Widow. New York: Penguin, 1983.

McDaniel, Lorna. The Big Drum Ritual of Carriacou: Praisesongs in Rememory of Flight.

Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Mishima, Yukio. Confessions of a Mask, trans. Meredith Weatherby. New York: New

Directions, 1958.

Rhine, Marjorie. (1999, Summer).… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Identity Themes in Praisesong.  (2012, December 6).  Retrieved September 28, 2020, from

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"Identity Themes in Praisesong."  6 December 2012.  Web.  28 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Identity Themes in Praisesong."  December 6, 2012.  Accessed September 28, 2020.