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A Comparison and Contrast of the Search for an Identity in This Boy's Life, by Tobias Wolfe, and Limbo, by A. Manette Ansay

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Essay title: A Comparison and Contrast of the Search for an Identity in This Boy's Life, by Tobias Wolfe, and Limbo, by A. Manette Ansay

A Comparison and Contrast of the Search for an Identity in This Boy’s Life, by Tobias Wolfe, and Limbo, by A. Manette Ansay

At a glance, both protagonists (Jack, from This Boy’s Life, and Anne, from Limbo) appear to have very little in common. Jack, the only child of a single mother, is desperately attempting to develop his identity while he lives an unstable life in which he is constantly uprooted and moved form city to city as his mother searches for a way to support him. This perpetual motion is sharply contrasted by Anne who grows up in a small Catholic town in the Wisconsin country. There, she is given an identity in the form of her faith in God. However, both characters seek a new, or at least better, understanding of their identity. This is manifested differently within each memoir in that Jack’s search is general while Anne’s is focused on her faith and her identity with Christ. Although each character deals with their search differently, they both conclude that there are issues that they are unable to control and simply have to accept. This acceptance is portrayed by the protagonists’ inability to control the outcomes of their lives.

Throughout his childhood, Jack’s constant state of relocation coupled with his lack of a steady patriarchal figure cause him to stagnant in his “male” development. Since Jack only has one constant figure to learn from (his mother) while he is growing up, he never properly learns many of the life lesson that are part of becoming a man. This is similar to the child whose parents always allow him to quite a sport that he struggles with rather than forcing him to improve and suffer defeat along the way. Jack’s lack of a father figure never allows him to learn those hard “male” lessons about growing up.

This lack of a father figure is only exacerbated by Jack’s constant relocation. Not only is he unable to learn how to become a man, but he is never fully able to establish himself within a social setting and develop basic attributes of his identity. He never plays little league, or joins a band, etc., and is therefore unable to establish his identity.

These two problems, his lack of a father figure and his inability to establish a basic social identity, lead Jack down a path that causes him to seek acceptance in as many situations as possible. Throughout the memoir this results in negative behavior, Jack proceeds to lie, cheat, and even steal, in an attempt to gain acceptance anywhere he can. This negative behavior is evident when Jack goes through the elaborate process of applying to boarding school, when he lies to his family on the phone, fictitiously fills out his transcripts, and lies to the couple that wishes to be his benefactor so that they will buy him clothes (for his new school of course). Jack’s instinct to seek acceptance forces him to essentially reinvent himself at every juncture. Rather than develop who he is and force the people he encounters to accept him, Jack forces his persona to alter in order to gain acceptance from every person he encounters.

Anne suffers from a completely different form of identity crisis. While attempting to develop who she is and/or will become, she looses her grasp on who she was. After dedicating a large portion of her life to playing piano, Anne sees all her hopes and dreams slip away due to an unknown muscle disorder that leaves her incapable of performing. Anne who didn’t live in a constantly relocated broken home like Jack and had an incredibly strong moral base derived from her (and every one else in her town’s) conservative religious values, doubts her faith in God and questions why she, a good Christian who has never done anything wrong, has her future (becoming a pianist) taken away from her. Anne begins a long search

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(2009, 12). A Comparison and Contrast of the Search for an Identity in This Boy's Life, by Tobias Wolfe, and Limbo, by A. Manette Ansay. EssaysForStudent.com. Retrieved 12, 2009, from https://www.essaysforstudent.com/essays/A-Comparison-and-Contrast-of-the-Search-for/22319.html

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"A Comparison and Contrast of the Search for an Identity in This Boy's Life, by Tobias Wolfe, and Limbo, by A. Manette Ansay." EssaysForStudent.com. 12, 2009. Accessed 12, 2009. https://www.essaysforstudent.com/essays/A-Comparison-and-Contrast-of-the-Search-for/22319.html.