You Are Who You Are: Responding to Jennifer Crichton’s “Who Shall I Be?”

You Are Who You Are: Responding to Jennifer Crichton’s “Who Shall I Be?”

We learn from Jennifer Crichton’s fictional character of “Who Shall I Be” that one cannot change who they are, one can only attempt to hide what they don’t like. The narrator is a girl who is starting college and is experiencing what she feels is an identity crisis. She is desperate to change who she is and decides that another identity will make her into the person she wants to be. It is clear in this text that no matter how hard one tries to be someone else, you can never change who you really are.

You can’t to be anybody but yourself. As hard as it sometimes may seem to be yourself, it is just as hard to be someone you’re not. We are genetically predisposed to being a certain way, and no matter how hard one tries to change that, it will always be impossible to change. As much as the author says that “when you do something long enough, that thing becomes you” (218), I completely disagree. Building up a character and pretending to be that person that you’re not every single day, is exhausting and at one point will be too hard to keep up with. “For one thing, people know us well enough to see when were attempting a change, and change can look embarrassingly like a public admission of weakness.” (218) After a while people notice us for who we really are, and if we were changing to make them like us, we are just defeating our purpose.
No one wants to be friends with a liar. In the short story “Who Shall I be?”, the author demonstrates that when hiding your true self, and creating a “new you”, a life full of lies and deception is created. Ultimately the longer one attempts to be someone they are not, the better chance there is for their real personality to come through. This leaves the people they have surrounded themselves by, confused as to who they really are. They begin questioning and doubting, this resulting in the conclusion that this person is a liar. The author explains how, by trying to change who you are, you are only temporarily concealing what you don’t like; and in addition making your life one huge lie. The narrator describes herself as a “high-strung, sensitive, acne-blemished, antiauthoritarian, would-be writer” (216). She is desperately attempting to be Rusty, the “blithe spirit who would laugh everything off, who shrugs at perils as various as fresh man mixers, the girl who has bad grades, has cafeterias jammed with aloof strangers, and in general, just pass through a room with all the vitality and appeal of a cool gust of wind” (216). Her reasoning for changing herself is self-hatred and self-affirmation. If someone only wants to love themselves, changing their identity is not the proper approach. More self-hatred will be the only result from the consequences of trying to be someone you’re not. Being yourself will gain you more respect from others, being a lie will alienate you from everyone. When I switched high schools in grade nine, I was not feeling very self confident and good about myself. I could have started over as a different person and made friends with people who were nothing like me. Instead, my decision to be myself helped me to make friends who were just like me and to foster friendships that were meaningful and lasting. I believe that a decision like this would work for everyone, as it did for me, and the protagonist in the short story.

The final moral of this short story is that you can’t be happy until you realise that the above is true, and you lead your life in a way that models that reality. “I kept running into myself like a serpent chasing its tail” (220) says one of the protagonist’s friends. The more one runs from who they are, and tries to make changes to themselves for the “better”, the harder it will be to be happy. The only way to do so is to come to peace with who you are and to stop running. The narrator realises that her “most of our personalities and bodies are just as stubbornly averse to being extinguished, even if the fantasy ... takes its obsessive toll on our thoughts now and again.” (220) Ones personalities and emotions can only be masked, never replaced by lies. I have already established that your true self will come out regardless if one wants it to or not. So then, why run? Why prolong unhappiness by trying to be someone you’re not? This is proven in the story because when the protagonist stops chasing after what she is not, she is finally happy. The fact that she doesn’t realise this, and still thinks that she has changed herself, does not negate the reality that she didn’t in fact change. She never truly changes. The only way to become a better person is to improve the qualities that one has, and find happiness and self acceptance.

It is clear in the short story “Who Shall I Be” that one cannot change their identity, one can only attempt at masking, and replacing it for a more desirable one. The lies and deception that are created when changing the “real you” will be discovered by those surrounding you. In the end, who you are will show, and the only way to be happy with who you are is to accept yourself for who you are. The truth always has a happier ending.

Argumentative Essay Outline
Chosen story: “Who Shall I Be?” by Jennifer Crichton

Thesis Statement: We learn from Jennifer Crichton’s fictional character of “Who Shall I Be”, that one cannot change who they are, one can only attempt hiding what they don’t like.
Paragraph 1: You can’t be anybody but yourself
Paragraph 2: When hiding your true self, and creating a “new you”, a life full of lies and deception is created.
Paragraph 3: You can’t be happy until you realise that the above is true, and you lead your life in a way that models that reality

Self Assessment: Argumentative Essay
You Are Who You Are: “Who Shall I be?”

When we were presented this essay assignment I thought it would be very similar to the last essay assignment we were given. When I started writing this argumentative essay I found myself writing my interpretation of the story, as we did in the expressive essay. I found this essay much harder to write than the first. The hardest part was finding three strong points to divide my essay. Initially I was only able to come up with one. After much time brainstorming I came up with, what I find to be three very strong arguments.

In addition, I was not in class when the rough draft was due; therefore I never got a chance for anyone to look over my essay. Because of this, I am the only one who has edited it, and I would have liked for someone else to have read it and given me feedback.

Overall I am very satisfied with my essay and my analysis of it. It was defiantly challenging to write but will help me improve on my writing and analysing abilities. The next essay that I write, I will make sure to have someone review it before I hand it in.