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Alexandra’s Quest for Identity in O Pioneers!

Author: YangHaiYing
Tutor: XiaoYi
School: Sichuan International Studies University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Willa Cather O Pioneers! identification desire mourning identity
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2010
Downloads: 48
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From the perspective of the subject theory of Lacan, this thesis examines the heroine’s progress of searching for identity in her pioneering life and states that Willa Cather offers modern an alternative way to resolve human identity crisis in modern society through the example of Alexandra.Alexandra experiences the journey of identity transformation including gaining identity through identification in the Imaginary, losing identity in the Symbolic and redefining identity in the Reality. First, Alexandra’s identity is constructed on the basis of her identification with her father. Her personality construction is under her parents’influence. Due to her admiration of father surpassing that of mother, consequently, identification with her father results in her taking masculinity as her ideal ego and imaginary identity. Second, her disillusionment with the American Dream brings about her loss of identity. Alexandra has misrecognized father’s desire as hers since she identifies with father. She imagines that by realization of the American Dream she can make her identity recognized by the society as the surrogate of father. However, her success does not guarantee her recognition from society and disappoints her, which proves that her pursuit of American Dream is worthless. On the one hand, she does not sense any self-fulfillment from her achievement; on the other hand, she fails to make her identity recognized by the Symbolic despite of her great accomplishment. Hence, she is disappointed with father’dream, which leads to her loss of identity. Last, new desire enables Alexandra to find new identity. Experiencing the birth and the dead in the Real, she mourns the lost desire successfully and then finds new desire. Owning to Carl’s return, Alexandra forgives and recognizes Marie’s emotion. Finally, Alexandra finds her new identity by accepting Carl’s proposal.Concisely, her gaining identity in the Imaginary, losing identity in the Symbolic and redefining identity in the Reality are the embodiment of Alexandra’s searching for identity. Cather intends to provide a positive way for the modern identity crisis through Alexandra’s experience. As far as the redefinition of identity concerned, it is crucial to succeed in mourning the loss of the phallus and to create new objects of desire so as to drive to find new identity.

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