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In his article “Son” as published in his book “Far From the Tree”, Andrew Solomon talks
about the difficulties that come with a person being different from their parents in behavior and
physical features. According to Solomon (2012), those who possess these differences sometimes
suffer at the hands of their own parents before the parents finally agree that their children are
different from them and they give their children support in finding their own identity. He notes
that the peace is only found when this stage is reached because then the people around an
individual with difference in character learn to accept such an individual and the individual can
then thrive in the society as a being. He also notes that it is normal of parents to want to change
their children to fit their idea of their offspring and where possible the parents will do it when the
child is still an infant and cannot make their own decision. In his article, The Power of Context:
Bernie Goetz and the Rise and Fall of New York City Crime, Malcolm Gladwell talks of an
individual who commits a crime of shooting four young men who were mistreating him but the
society only judges this young man who gets jailed and the rest of the people are set free. He
notes that later, when the society opens its eyes to the reality of the matter, the four young men
get jailed but this is after the person who shot them suffers in jail. In this article, Gladwell paints
a picture of how the paintings in the subway influences the people’s behavior and when the
paintings are erased, the behavior of the people, initially inclined to committing crime is changed
(Gladwell, 2003). In the article, Homo Religiosus, Karen Armstrong paints a picture of a people
who need God in their lives in order to have their ways in line with the expectations of the
majority of the people. In this article, Karen notes that the issue of God is something that is going
to remain in the world as long as people are in the world. The linkage that can be seen from the
three articles is that they all seek to paint a picture of how the environment has the ability of
influencing one’s behavior. The three articles show that an individual’s character is not only
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influenced by their genes, but also by the environment in which the individual grows. It is true to
say that people’s identity is influenced largely by the environment such people are brought up
and the forces that revolve around such a people.
Identity is a sense of being whoone or what an individual or a thing actually is. Identity
can also be defined as the similarity between individuals. The identity of a person is how such a
person behaves while put under some conditions. The identity of an individual is not stable. If
identity of an individual was stable it would mean that such a person would remain to be as such
all their lives but this is not true (Williams, 2005). An individual’s identity is made up of
different components. Some are facts of life and they cannot change. These components of an
individual’s identity that cannot change include things like someone’s skin color, tribe among
other things. Other components of identity include feelings and attitudes and preferences and
these are not stable and they keep changing as time changes. Since the identity of an individual
cannot be described as some components while leaving out other components of identity, it is
true to say that the overall identity of an individual changes from time to time and therefore it is
not stable. A person’s identity, especially on the components of identity that cannot change, is
heavily influenced by their parents. This is in things like the skin color and those other examples
of components that cannot change. The rest of the components of an individual that keep
changing from time to time are influenced by the environment of an individual. In his article,
Son, Andrew Solomon notes that “Our children are not us: they carry throwback genes and
recessive traits and are subject right from the start to environmental stimuli beyond our control”.
By this statement, he intends to make it known that an identity of a person can influenced by the
environment such a person thrives in. Gladwell, in his article, The Power of Context: Bernie
Goetz and the Rise and Fall of New York City Crime, also puts emphasis on this fact while he
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says that, “Crime on the subway had nothing to do with the psychology of the men, but instead
the graffiti on the subway and the disorder of the turnstiles.” This shows that the men who
committee crime in the subway had their identity compromised by the environment in the
subway of which seemed to promote crime.
Some aspects of identity are out of people’s control. These are the aspects of identity that
are rigid and stable and cannot change. Theseaspects of identity are passed on the parents to their
children. These aspects of identity cannot be influenced by the environment in any way. African
Americans have lived in America for so long but still they are black in color. This is as described
by Andrew Solomon,” Children of color are in general born to parents of color; the genetic fact
of skin pigmentation is transmitted across generations along with a self-image as a person of
color, even though that self-image may be subject to generational flux.” This is because, this
identity cannot change no matter what conditions an individual will be presented with. In the
article, Son, Andrew notes that, “There is no such thing as a baby—meaning that if you set out to
describe a baby, you will find you are describing a baby and someone. A baby cannot exist alone
but is essentially part of a relationship.” In this he seeks to show how the parents of an individual
play an important role in shaping the identity of a child and no child can claim to not have some
of their quality from their parents. This seeks to strengthen the adage; an apple does not fall from
the tree. My identity is heavily influenced by my parents. My skin color, my religion, my
language are all the components of my identity that have been authored in me by my parents. I
have also authored some of the components of my identity on my own. This is especially like
with the games I play in school. My parents do not have a hand on the sport that I chose to play
in school because they even do not think that it is good from me and my studies. This is what
Solomon tries to put across when he says that, “Often, however, someone has an inherent or
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acquired trait that is foreign to his or her parents and must therefore acquire identity from a peer
group.” Other entities have also played an important role in shaping my identity. Social media
and television are among eh entities that have played a very important role in shaping my
identity. This is because I tend to copy most of the things I see on television and try to live the
life that the social medial portrays as the cool life for someone my age.
One can describe self-image as illusion in different ground. One’s identity is not in any
way a creation of his. Someone becomes what he is framed to become from the time he was born
until the day he dies by external forces. God is among the forces that makes one individual. This
is because, for the people who believe in God they are programmed to act in some way, as noted
by Karen, a reality of a world that is not influenced by God is a lie. This is because the belief in
God has had a lot of influence in people’s behavior in different ways. Peer groups and parents
are also among the entities that play a very important role in shaping an individual’s identity and
this shows that self-authored identity is an illusion by people (Hayward, 2004). One might think
that they have authored their own identity but the truth is the parents of such a person, their
belief in God and their peers are the most important players in someone’s identity. Self is a
reactive entity largely. This means that self-reacts to the happenings around. This is as shown by
Gladwell, “Crime on the subway had nothing to do with the psychology of the men, but instead
the graffiti on the subway and the disorder of the turnstiles.” This shows that not only crime is
influenced by the environment but everything else an individual does or an individual can be
identified with. Karen shows that self-identity is a creative one while she notes that, “We are
meaning-seeking creatures. While dogs, as far as we know, do not worry about the canine
condition or agonize about their mortality, humans fall very easily into despair if we don’t find
some significance in our lives.” This shows that while animals are content with the way they are
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created, humans on the other hand will always try to seek answers on different things and this is
what leads to identity influence. This shows that self’s identity is influenced by someone’s
researching on different aspects and then settling on what they want in their lives.
The above information shows that someone’s identity is made up by different factors.
Some factors that make up a person’s identity are those that he has no control over and therefore,
such a person cannot change those factors that define them. These kinds of factors that an
individual cannot deliberately control are the ones that make up most of an individual’s identity.
The parents are the ones that play the most important role in shaping this kind of identity of their
children. In some other factors, a person can deliberately control what he wants to be identified
with. This is what happens when someone researches around the environment for the things he
wants to be identified with and settles on some aspects. The percentage of identity that an
individual deliberately researches on and settles on makes the least percentage of a person’s
identity. This kind of identity can also change when an individual discovers some other things
which they find better to be identified with. An individual’s identity is also made up of what is
borrowed from the peers that an individual relates with and the individual does not need to
research what they want to be identified with. It just happens automatically when they are in a
particular environment. This shows that the society at large has a responsibility when it comes to
the shaping of a person’s identity and as such there is need to control what people are exposed to,
moreover people should be guided on how to protect their identity so that they will have their
integrity protected. This is because the people will always be influenced in decision making by
the environment and this is what makes up their identity. Identity is an important aspect and
should be protected at all means.
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