From "On the Sidewalk Bleeding" by Evan Hunter, what does the narrator tells us about identity and what makes who we are?
1 Answer | Add Yours
One aspect of identity that is evident in Hunter's story is how external reality plays a critical role in defining who we are. While we might wish to be many things internally and subjectively, external reality plays a critical role in who we are and how we are perceived. For example, Andy is not really Andy, as much he is a "Royal." When Andy hears the voice saying, "That's for you Royal!" and the ending in which the police officer says, "A Royal," when his name is given, it becomes clear that identity is defined, in large part, by social construction and external reality. It is symbolic that after Andy is stabbed, "He tried to yell for help, but he had no voice." The desertion of his voice is reflective of how he lacks a voice in the face of social construction.
Interestingly enough, Hunter seems to suggest that there is a paradoxical aspect within this construction of identity. Identity is shown to be externally established, something that is "other- directed." Yet, there is a sense of loneliness that results in this condition. While there is an externally defined notion of self, Hunter's work suggests that there is a loneliness that is intrinsic to the modern definition of who we are. Andy might be defined as a "Royal" by so much of society, yet he experiences his last moments alone. Society passes him by as merely an object, something not understood and approached with apprehension. Towards the end of his life, Andy's threshold of revelation is one that reflects this: "If he died, he was Andy. He was not a Royal. He was simply Andy, and he was dead." Andy's being in the world was externally defined to be something that he really had no choice in repudiating. He would be seen as a "Royal" no matter what. Yet, even in accepting this condition of being in the world, he is still alone. Social or external constructions of identity help to make us who we are, and are realities in which individuals are still forlorn and without any solidarity with others. Identity is externally constructed, and yet there is only loneliness in being in the world. Who we are is defined by external reality, and even within this definition there is no community or sense of totality. This paradox becomes the basis of being in the world, and provides a very sad vision of what makes us what we are.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes