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Published: 16-10-2019

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The Role of Cultural Identity in the Life of the Author in Spit at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity, an Essay by Adrienne Rich

In her work Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity, Adrienne Rich makes it possible for us to discover her cultural identity as she attempts to establish its part in her life. She covers the relationship between her present self and her past memories as well as the effects that anti-Semitism has had on that connection. She discusses a variety of stereotypes and anti-Semitic ideals from the time period and I will cover whether these problems are still relevant right now.

Adrienne Wealthy, a renowned poet, was born in 1929 in Baltimore, Maryland. Getting the child of Arnold Wealthy, a pathologist and the Chairman of Pathology at John’s Hopkins University, and Helen Wealthy, a concert pianist and composer, Adrienne came from a extremely nicely-educated household. She frequently discussed her father’s higher intellectual expectations of her in her functions (Pope).

Developing up in the 1940s Wealthy struggled with her cultural identity as effectively her father was Jewish and her mother was a WASP. According to Jewish law Rich was not to determine as a Jew simply because her mother was not a Jew. Nevertheless, non-Jewish folks nevertheless regarded her a Jew, and in a largely anti-Semitic era this posed some concerns for her. Because of the common opinion of Jews in that time period, Rich’s father chose not to recognize with his Jewish heritage and so presented little guidance for Rich in developing her identity (Wealthy).

Arnold Rich’s lack of cultural guidance for his eldest daughter and her resulting confusion, anger, and resentment are what largely led to the writing of Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity. This piece is located in the Transition and Transcendence: Connecting Past and Future portion of the anthology. In her essay, Rich takes the cultural understanding she has gained throughout her life and attempts to relate it to memories to uncover how it has shaped her current identity. This relates to the chapter in which it is identified since Transition and Transcendence is all about “coming to terms with the actions of memory” and the “effort to connect a variety of versions of the self…through memory” (Skerrett).

The principal concern discussed in the piece is anti-Semitism. Rich discusses her Southern Christian upbringing from her mother’s WASP side of the family members and, on web page 327, their refusal to use particular words such as Jew. Rather, they utilised things such as “Hebrew people” or “people of the Jewish faith.” Although her father was a Jew, he refused to talk about it with her and even encourage her acceptance of anti-Semitic views, as on web page 328, when he helped her practice saying the word “Jew” with contempt and disgust for a play (Rich).

Wealthy did not really commence to query her identity and upbringing till she was in high college, just following World War II ended. She saw a movie of the Jews becoming freed from concentration camps and she started to question whether to determine with their suffering. She returned home to go over the film with her parents but they were upset with her for seeing it. This was the beginning of her self-guilt, each for not identifying with her own heritage and for questioning the identity bestowed upon her by her parents. (Wealthy)

Rich’s curiosity about her cultural identity continued to grow until she went to college and met “real” Jewish girls who accepted her into their group and taught her all about the religion, as well as passing. This is where she began to understand just how genuine the issues of anti-Semitism have been and she began to understand her father’s denial of Jewish identity. This realization led her to commence to deny it herself, which only plagued her with far more guilt. She began to notice the numerous stereotypes put upon her and her household due to the fact of her father’s Jewishness. She mentions on web page 331 being told to “speak quietly in public, to dress without having ostentation, to repress all vividness or spontaneity, to assimilate with a globe which might see us as too flamboyant” to keep away from becoming see as acting too “common” or “Jewish” (Wealthy).

The anti-Semitic stereotypes that Adrienne Rich faced growing up and throughout her adult life are still extremely considerably relevant today. With the existing conflict among Israel and Palestine, the religious views of the two parties are usually brought up in discussion. Discontent with the way the Israeli government has been handling the situation has led to numerous news headlines reporting a rise in anti-Semitism globally, as well as in the United States (Fletcher).

An analysis of modern American slang and Jewish stereotypes offers proof of continued anti-Semitic views in American society. “Jewing it down” which means “to bargain for a much better deal”, a typical slang term in our personal state of Wisconsin, shows continued stereotypical association among Jews and cash. This unfavorable stereotype was a major issue in causing Jews to be imprisoned in concentration camps and contributed to the begin of World War II (Prell).

One particular only demands to read the comments for a Jewish connected video on YouTube to see the continued anti-Semitic views and unfavorable stereotypes in modern day American society. A clip from the common show What Would You Do? is also a prime instance for this issue. This distinct episode demonstrated the reactions of typical Americans to anti-Semitic actions. The situation presented showed a young, friendly Jewish couple entering a bakery to hang a flyer and getting verbally abused and attacked with anti-Semitic views by the shop owner. Throughout the episode several of the clients in the bakery showed no reaction or chose not to get involved. Several consumers reacted by defending the Jewish couple through confrontation of the store owner or by merely walking out. But 1 man defended the store owner and joined him in attacking the couple verbally he blamed them for the funds troubles in the country and for beginning the Iraq war. Even when confronted by the show’s host questioning his actions, he continued to defend his views. This shows that, even though numerous individuals have changed their views and would defend folks from mistreatment for their cultural/religious identity, the situation of anti-Semitism is absolutely nevertheless relevant (Taking a Stance).

Anti-Semitism played a significant function in Adrienne Rich’s life and helped to shape her cultural identity. It has been a continuous issue throughout history and modern American society is no exception. There will most likely be tiny evolution of existing anti-Semitic stereotypes for many years as they have remained fairly unchanged because World War II and existing world conflicts can only help in the continuity of anti-Semitism.
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