A person’s identity is often considered a trait that someone is born with, similar to physical traits such as eye color or face shape. In actuality, identity is not something that can be determined by a particular strand of DNA, rather it is something that must be formed throughout a lifetime. Thus, at birth, one’s identity is a blank canvas, ready to absorb knowledge from its immediate surroundings, more particularly family, as it is the first thing a fresh identity is exposed to. As evidenced by Grapes of Wrath, Abraham Lincoln, and The Great Gatsby, one’s identity is primarily determined by his or her family.
In Grapes of Wrath, the Joad’s identify themselves with their land, as farming is their only livelihood. Without land to farm, the Joads’s way of life is entirely uprooted; thus, they are forced to change their identities in order to survive. However, this identification with the land is not something each Joad is born with; rather, it is a relationship that is primarily influenced by family. Initially, Ruthie and Winifield, both still young children, do not understand the emotional impact of the Dustbowl on their family.
However, as they watch their father, they begin to understand that his land is what makes him who he is, and without it, he is lost. At this point, Ruthie and Winifield’s new identities are starting to take shape as they, too, learn to love the land. Abraham Lincoln, a former president of the United States, grew up in a small cabin to a poor family. He was able to attend school as a young boy; however, the educational system of his rural town in Kentucky put him at a disadvantage to many other politicians he competed against.
When Lincoln’s mother passed, he was left to be raised by only his father, whom he gradually became estranged from. However, these disadvantages that Lincoln faced made him the self-motivated and ambitious man he soon became. Had he been raised in a well-to-do family by attentive and loving parents, he would not have been nearly as driven and hardworking, as everything would have been spoon-fed to him. Thus, Lincoln’s family life was the one thing ultimately determined the man he was to become.
Lincoln’s absentee father and poor economic situation gave him the will and ambition that allowed him o do great things in the world. In The Great Gatsby, in contrast to Abraham Lincoln, Daisy was born into an extremely wealthy family. In such a family, Daisy hardly ever had the need to lift a finger, as everything was done for her. In addition, this wealth made Daisy a very desirable young woman; thus, Daisy did not often have to work to gain anyone’s approval. Had she been raised in poor family, similar to Abraham Lincoln, Daisy would have been forced to sink or swim on her own, giving her more ambition to succeed.
However, due to Daisy’s family life, she grew accustomed to a pampered life lifestyle in which everything was simply handed to her, making her the self-obsessed, materialistic, and lazy person she became. As evidenced by Grapes of Wrath, Abraham Lincoln, and The Great Gatsby, family is what primarily determines someone’s identity. Thus, identity is not some gene-determined trait that is formed prior to birth. It is something that takes shape in the early stages of one’s life, forming accordingly to his or her environment.