In my last blog post “Supply and Demand,” I wrote about how an individual’s environment severely affects their rights and, therefore, their identity. Depending on the environment, certain behaviors and actions are either stimulated or repressed because of their social and/or economic standpoint. Some areas restrict/control an individual’s ability to marry whoever they want, live wherever they want, work whatever job they want, etc. However, a person’s reaction depends on what they define their identity to be made of after these influences have affected them. In this case, will the backfire effect help or prevent positive progress from being made?
If an individual’s identity does not correspond with their environment, then it is assumed that they will take a different path until they reach a point of contentment. No matter how perilous this journey becomes, they will do their best to gain that sense of satisfaction and righteousness in finding a place they belong, as demonstrated by Frank Money from Toni Morrison’s Home and Alice Achitophel from Percival Everett’s Zulus.
As a child, Frank grows into the “big brother” role until puberty hits and the reality of this huge world outside of Lotus sinks into his mind. To Frank’s realization, “Lotus…is the worst place in the world…just long stretches of killing time” (83) where everyone is “hopeless[ly] living” (84). The army is Frank’s only way out in which he is able to have a “real” sense of purpose rather than the dull monotony his family has settled for. With the brutal deaths of his best friends and a Korean girl, Frank loses his essence as both a soldier and as Frank Money in the process. In response to Cee’s call for help, Frank temporarily and ultimately regains his “big brother” role to fill in the emotional gaps left by his PTSD under the title of “Cee’s savior.”
Alice, on the other hand, has a much more explosive and adaptable journey. Despite living as part of a doomed generation in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, Alice is still ostracized and judged for her body shape by the remnants of society. Ironically, shunning people who are not of the “norm” is one of humanity’s ways to normalize the situation they are in. The constant animosity and isolation surround Alice to the point that she has long since adapted and often imagines herself as a singularity in which her world is revolving separately from everyone else’s. When Alice is pregnant, she embodies the hope associated with the child into herself, pushing herself to take impulsive actions. Having the child within her made Alice more prone to mood swings and emotions similar to a toddler. In fact, after Alice violently gives birth to “Esther,” her thoughts become mature as she is reborn into a body more accepted by society. Finally, Alice uses this body to find her own answers on how to save humanity.
Regardless of all these conditions, both characters’ courses ended right back where they started. Frank returns to Lotus, Georgia with the absence of his thirst for adventure and action, which is instead replaced by his PTSD. Alice is literally trapped inside her original body forever in a glass case, permanently isolated from humanity. Therefore, finding a “happy place” may not be as easy as it sounds.