Identity Crisis as Literary Theme Significance


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Literary criticism concerns itself not so much with the reconstruction of plot as with the study of themes, characters, and the use of techniques. From Greek playwright Sophocles’ Oidipous Tryanos (c. 429 b.c.; Oedipus Tyrannus, 1729) to African American writer Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982), the identity crisis has demonstrated its power as one of the main thematic concerns in literature. Tragedy becomes ineluctable when characters are unable to extricate themselves from the conflict between who they are and who they are supposed to be. Conversely, characters’ awareness of their true selves is essential to the eventual achievement of self-actualization. In American literature, especially contemporary American literature, an identity crisis is frequently occasioned by conflict. Conflict between a person or group and another person, group, or natural force is what drives one into change.