A Mutable Self

Haley Wiedenman English 101 Brit Ashley 4/8/11 When reading “A Mutable Self”, by Mary Catherine Bateson, I am forced to analyze why I am myself. For several years I have stubbornly believed that I have become myself by myself alone and have not been influenced by the things and people around me. I didn’t want to admit that I am in fact tightly connected to people of my past and they have influenced who I am greatly. Bateson makes it clear in her writing that “no one –fetus, child, or adult- is independent of the actions and imaginations of others. Though we have the power to alter ourselves, the fact that we do so because the influence of others proves that we can never break the connection of the people who we have been subject to, making us somewhat dependent of those around us. Bateson brings this subject to our attention to spread an awareness of how we come to be under the influence of others. Not only does she inform us of the ways of ourselves but also she enlightens the reader of cultures around the globe.
Taking in this information has the potential to change readers view and allow them to have a greater understanding of the world around them. In opening this door Bateson is creating a continual awareness that will aid the reader in their daily life though the understanding of themselves and others. On the contrary to popular belief, Bateson has faith that “the self is learned, yet ironically it often becomes a barrier to learning. The way that I perceive this is that we often are so stubborn with the views of ourselves that we deny any opposing views given by others, which in turn blocks our access to further knowledge. Once we have an idea in our head about a certain thing, it is often difficult to persuade us otherwise. In the works of Bateson she writes a personal story about her visit to an Iranian kindergarten. In her visit the teacher allowed a period for drawing time to the students. At the end of there time the teacher went to each student, collected the drawing pencils, and threw away each of there creations.
I come from a home where my first piece of art I brought home remains framed in our living room. So, to me, it is extremely sad that these children are not rewarded for their creative efforts. Instead of a high five and gold star on our artwork, these small children just watch as their masterpieces fall into a trashcan. The difference between Iranian culture and my own is huge. Though I am sure they have there own motives for their ways, I personally am glad I grew up in a home where I was praised for my hard work.

Even though I enjoyed reading this essay, I do believe there are a few things Bateson could have done my successfully. Her writing is a bit repetitive, which I suppose is an effective way to make your point clear, however it can also make the reading a bit dull from time to time. Another item she could have improved on is her connection to the reader. Many of her examples where of other cultures, and while this may be extremely interesting, it does not relate to the most the people who will be reading this essay.
It could have been more triumphant if Bateson would have both related to the common reader and added other cultural insight. Connections between the Essays: 1- The self is ever changing – pg. 252 What is the Self? & pg. 272 A mutable Self 2- People and culture around you shape the self – pg. 261 What is the Self? & pg. 269-270 A Mutable Self Questions 1- Can we disconnect ourselves from our family/community to become independent and find our true selves? (w/ out outside influence) 2- What effect does our childhood have on our lives?

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