The Quest for Identity In American Literature.
The problem of identity is one of the most crucial in the development of each society, and it refers mainly to taking into account the greatest differences which separate people, as well as stating these differences in order to be acknowledged and respected by the others. -Identity is about belonging, about what you have in common with some people and what differentiates you from others.""(Jeffrey Weeks, The Value of difference, in J. Rutherford (ed.), Identity: Community, Culture, Difference, London, 1990). .
People are especially made aware of these discrepancies through the use of the huge amount of different markers which are bestowed to them, and which are all intimately linked to such categories as: social, physical appearance, personality, nationality, religion, family relationships, gender, occupation, culture. But by whom, where, why, under what circumstances and for how long are these markers associated to one's individuality, still remains a matter of relativity and contingence. .
In American literature this essential problem becomes obvious through the many forms of narratives which take the shape of stories centered all on this major theme, of the quest for a private, inner identity as a major human experience. As the Americans were the first to define the short story as a specific literary form (1842, E.A. Poe), it is self-evident that their attempt to depict their search for identity through it is as important as ours in trying to distinguish its American features.
"One thing at least is clear-identity only becomes an issue when it is in crisis, when something assumed to be fixed, coherent and stable is displaced by the experience of doubt and uncertainty-( Kobena Mercer , Welcome to the jungle: identity and diversity in postmodern politics in Identity, Community, Culture, Difference, London, 1990).