Personal identity: a concept worth investigating in nearly every work of literature and art.
The etymology of the word is an interesting angle; identity (from Latin idem) means “the same”, so I suppose maintaining the same characteristics over time gives us our identity.
The Picture of Dorian Gray raises the issue of exerting influence over others’ identities and being open to influence. K’s character, Sibyl Vane, undergoes a radical shift in her personal identity–from actress/chanteuse to beloved and lover of Dorian. This is the important take-away: In the first identity, she is an independent agent. In the second, she is dependent on someone else to help her maintain that identity. Therein lies the tragedy.
Look: K on the cover! The article inside neglects to mention Scott Breitbarth, the musical director and choreographer for the show, so this is my shout-out to the brilliant work he’s done!
We went to the 5th Avenue’s production of Man of La Mancha last night, and this was the question the play raised for me:
How does a person’s commitment to their personal identity play out for tragedy or triumph?
A truth about life: change is all there ever is. So does someone inflexible in their personal identity suffer? Similarly, does someone too malleable or changeable suffer?
Man of LaMancha reminded me of 1984, which I’m re-reading right now. The scene with the Knight of the Mirrors who disabuses Quixote of his illusions is strikingly similar to the later O’Brien scenes with Winston Smith. Smith, who looks in a mirror and has a difficult time coming to terms with the person he is, or was, or will be.