The Theme Of Identity In The Devil Wears Prada And The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian
Who am I? This seems to be the one question everyone struggles with. As we enter new phases in our lives, our personality and identity are constantly changing. In the book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Arnold Spirit also known as Junior, is a boy living on an Indian reservation named Spokane. The people on the reservation are all close, poor, and isolated from the real world, making Junior’s decision to go to a white school strange. In the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, Andrea Sachs gets hired as an assistant for a very big editor and struggles to hang onto herself. In both of these references, the main characters are attempting to fit into a world in which they don’t belong and have to change their identity. One’s identity is formed, influenced, and molded by the environment they are in and people they are around because it forces one to change their identity negatively to fit into someplace they aren’t accepted. In the novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior feels out of place in a foreign environment which makes him want to change how he protrays himself. Soon after attending his new school, Reardan, Junior realizes how different the environment is from his old school. Everyone at Reardan is wealthy, white, and the complete opposite of Junior, ultimately leading him to change his identity. For example, when Junior is explaining how everyone at Reardan thinks Indians are rich, he states, “I lied about how poor I was… I pretended to have little money…I pretended I belonged”. Junior feels embarrassed about his identity and the poverty of his background. The new environment at Reardan is negatively influencing and molding his identity because he has started to lie about his economic standing. Outcasted in his new school, the environment molded Junior into becoming a contrast person with different beliefs. Junior’s lies turned him into an entirely different person. At the beginning of the book, he was a part of the community on the reservation so he didn’t have to change to fit in; he already belonged.
This shows how he’s willing to put aside his morals and beliefs to change for others. It looks bad for his character since he puts others’ views about himself before his own and his opinion doesn’t have a value. On the reservation, everybody knew they were poor so there was no need to lie or change who you were to fit it. Another example is when Junior tries to talk to Penelope the second time in school to say hi and she claims, “You’re the boy who can’t figure out his own name” (Alexie 73). Penelope’s comment is notably beyond Junior’s name. It is referring to his two identities, Arnold, his white name, and Junior, his Indian name that he struggles to accept. Junior feels like he is two different people; at Reardan, people value his differences whereas, on the reservation, it makes him an outcast. This illustrates his struggles over identity because the group that he belongs to, which is the reservation, doesn’t give him opportunities to get anywhere in life whereas Reardan, many opportunities are presented. Junior’s identity is negatively formed and molded by the people at Reardan since he has to make the choice of whether to belong or chase opportunities. In order to do that, he has to change and adapt some parts of his identity based on who he’s with. All in all, Junior’s identity isn’t based so much on his impoverishment, but the environment and the people he is around. In the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, everyone’s looks are valued more than their personality. Andrea, also known as Andy, has no interest in changing her looks to please others or to fit in. However, as time goes by, she starts to adjust who she is based on the people she’s around. For instance, when Andy first got the job as the assistant to Miranda, the biggest magazine editor, she was ranting about how everyone judges your appearance and if you don’t look good, you don’t matter. This came back to bite her. In order to satisfy her boss and to fit in where she worked, Andy started to change her sense of style (The Devil Wears Prada). This exemplifies how Andy is molding her character based on Miranda to fit in and please her.
The people at Runway, the fashion magazine, seem to value fashion with their lives so, in order to fit in, Andy must alter her beliefs. As she changes, a vital piece of her is lost to a foreign environment. This used to be a part of her identity and morals since she believed fashion was useless, but because of the people around Andy, her identity has negatively been shaped. She dropped her morals and views on fashion to fit in and please people. As people want to move up in life, they look to their role models. In this case, Andy wanted to be Miranda without considering how this might affect and transform who she is. Another example is when Andy’s perspective on fashion changes due to her environment. At Andy’s interview, she shows up wearing plain slacks, a jacket, and a purple V-neck sweater. On the other hand, everyone looks gorgeous with their expensive suit, scarfs, and Parada shoes (The Devil Wears Prada). All of this shows the difference between the fashion styles but also the groups they come from. Andy’s coworkers are higher in class and use thier clothes to show it, while the idea of fashionable clothes is unusual to Andy. After some time has passed from Andy getting the job, her perspective on fashion has started to be influenced by her environment. Considering that Runway revolves around looks and high-end brands, Andy feels pressured to change and fit in. Her viewpoint in fashion starts to be identical to her environment. Her need to belong outweighs her past beliefs on fashion. This is a negative influence on her identity because her perspective on fashion was apart of her character, but she’s changed that because of her surroundings. Taking everything into account, one’s identity is really affected by people and the environment one is in because of their needs to fit into a place they aren’t recognized. This is the case with Junior and Andy. They both are outcasts in a new environment and both Junior and Andy want to belong in their new environments. In order to do that they must change and adapt. This would also apply to the movie Mean Girls, where Cady Heron moves from Africa to Illinois. After some time, Cady meets two new friends, Janis and Damian, which educate Cady on the different highschool groups.
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