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A Comparison of Self-Acceptance in Beloved, Secrets and Lies, and Cuckoo’s Nest

Self-Acceptance in Beloved, Secrets and Lies, and the Cuckoo’s Nest

“Self”-one of the words most commonly used, yet hardly ever defined. According to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, the term self refers to a) a person’s nature, character, etc. in the sense of “his/her better self”, or b) a person or thing referred to with respect to complete individuality, e.g. one’s own self. To clarify the term self in regard to how an individual perceives himself/herself, I would like to make a distinction between the term “ego” and self.

Generally, ego is defined as “the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment” (1). I believe that the term ego has been slightly modified throughout the past few decades and now also functions as a synonym for self-importance. The ego is reflected within the capital spelling of the word I, referring to myself, as a separation from aspects of the human psyche that we do not include into our identification of ourselves. It is the ego that makes us feel connected to our name, to our families, and to our accomplishments in life, especially if they have provided us with social respect (and even disrespect, as I will explain later throughout my essay). In pressurizing situations, it is the ego that makes sure that we have the self-esteem to continue, confirming us that we are different from anybody else and that we have the individual qualities and abilities to do anything we choose.

The self, on the other hand, is in my opinion what we really are, our nature/ character, not necessarily who we perceive ourselves to be. The self is based on a sense of understanding that every individual is on a journey; a lifelong experience. I believe that the self allows ourselves to feel compassion with ourselves no matter what we are going through in life, because we do not need to prove or accomplish something to be entitled to live. Connecting this with the definition given in the Random House Dictionary, stating that self describes a person’s nature, I believe that a strong sense of self is based on acceptance. This implies acceptance of ourselves at any given moment, and acceptance of the fact that all of our past experiences were necessary to bring us where we are right now.

Comparing Love in the Film, Secrets and Lies and Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Possessive Love in Secrets and Lies and Beloved

The word “freedom” is subject to various degrees of interpretation in the sense that it can be used in more than one context. One definition of freedom is the idea of having your own sense of self without the control of others. On the other hand, a lack of freedom is the idea of feeling trapped and smothered in a situation one has no control over. Freedom can relate to school, relationships, or even within oneself. A lack of freedom can have nothing to do with other people but with the ball and chain that can be placed on by oneself. Of course the outside world will be involved, but the pain of feeling trapped comes from the frustration that fills one’s soul. A lack of freedom can result from a twisted circle of other events and other people. In the novel Beloved and the film Secrets and Lies, the enslavement that Roxanne and Denver feel result from their mothers’ possessive love. Sethe and Cynthia both have horrific pasts, leaving them in captivity and causing them to have unhealthy relationships with their daughters. Sethe and Cynthia love the only way the know how, possessively and dependently, causing Denver and Roxanne’s mental enslavement.

In the film Secrets and Lies, both Cynthia and her twenty-one year-old daughter Roxanne, live a life of captivity. Cynthia’s is due to her unexplained past, while Roxanne’s is in result of her overbearing mother. Cynthia’s lack of freedom does not result from another’s actions, but from her own past. The trauma and lack of love she has experienced, has been blocked out and instead of dealing with it, she lives off of the attention of others. When she meets her daughter Hortense, whom she had given up for adopt…

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…or a life as it is now under Beloved’s control, she chooses a life for herself. By having support for the first time, freeing both of her daughters, and restoring her sense of self, Sethe is on her way to a life of happiness and trust, rather than dependence on others.

Although their backgrounds are completely different, both Cynthia and Sethe battle the same demons. Their pasts have consumed them and dependence on others, or complete isolation is the only way they know how to deal with it. This causes the mental enslavement of Roxanne and Denver. In order to overcome their emotional scars, they must learn to stand on their own two feet. Only when they do this will they be able to release their daughters, and restore their own self worth and freedom for all.

Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.

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