Unwelcomed Identities Explored by Kincaid and Anzaldua

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1332 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 1332|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Analysis of "On Seeing England for the First Time"
  3. Analysis of "How to Tame A Wild Tongue"
  4. Conclusion
  5. Works Cited


Questions of identity, both personal and collective, have persisted throughout human history. From the dawn of self-awareness, individuals and societies have grappled with the profound inquiries: "Who am I?", "Who are we?", "What am I?", and "What are we?" These existential questions have fueled exploration in literature, politics, and biology, each seeking to impart meaning and purpose to the human experience. Consequently, the narratives that elucidate our origins and identities may vary, shaped by different perspectives and beliefs. However, history's dark undercurrents reveal that oppression has often obscured the path to self-discovery, compelling the colonized to conform to a prescribed identity imposed by their rulers. This enforced identity, at odds with one's true self, can profoundly influence an individual's worldview and actions, impacting their mental health and self-perception.

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Analysis of "On Seeing England for the First Time"

One notable essay that explores the loss of identity and the conflict between one's origin story and true self is "On Seeing England for the First Time" by Jamaica Kincaid. In this poignant piece, Kincaid invites readers to journey with her through her life in Antigua, a British colony in the West Indies, and the profound influence of her formative experiences on her identity. She candidly describes how she was coerced into adopting a "white" identity, believing that whiteness held paramount importance and deserved reverence. Kincaid's narrative commences with her initial encounter with a map of England, which she describes as bright and delicate. However, her tone shifts as she derogatorily likens it to "a leg of mutton" and a "jail," hinting at her burgeoning resentment towards England. As her story unfolds, she reflects on the peculiarities of British rule in her homeland, where she was expected to venerate a distant queen who had never set foot on the island.

Throughout the essay, Kincaid's tone evolves, drawing readers closer to her emotional journey concerning England. She shares candidly, expressing sentiments such as, "the moment I wished every sentence that began with England would end with ‘and it all died.’" These words reflect her growing disillusionment with England as she grapples with its fraudulent influence on her life. Another instance of her frustration arises when she observes the disparities between what she was taught in Antigua and the reality of life in England. This dissonance prompts her to question her identity and cultural roots, leading her into a state of self-doubt. Kincaid's narrative abounds with examples of her vexation, like when she articulates her desire to "tear [England] into little pieces." Her firsthand encounter with England shattered the façade she had been raised to embrace, leaving her adrift in a sea of confusion regarding her true identity.

Kincaid's exploration of identity culminates in her realization that she neither fully aligns with the British nor identifies with the Antiguans. She grapples with her inability to comprehend her heritage, expressing her distress with sentences like,

"I am sure that it [England] is like every place else in the world: some miserable people and some unhappy people."

This inner turmoil stems from her struggle to associate herself with the English or her fellow Antiguans, as she remains uncertain of her true history and cultural roots. Ultimately, Kincaid's narrative serves as a powerful commentary on the internal conflict and identity crisis that can result from the imposition of a foreign identity.

Overall, in "On Seeing England for the First Time," Jamaica Kincaid masterfully unravels the intricate web of identity and oppression, shedding light on the tormenting journey of self-discovery in the face of colonial dominance. Through her compelling narrative, readers are invited to grapple with the universal question of identity and the profound impact of external forces on one's sense of self. Kincaid's exploration serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring quest to unravel the complexities of one's true identity.

Analysis of "How to Tame A Wild Tongue"

In the realm of essays that delve into the theme of identity and its loss, "How to Tame A Wild Tongue" by Gloria Anzaldúa stands as a compelling counterpart to Jamaica Kincaid's exploration. Unlike Kincaid, Anzaldúa's struggle does not emerge from colonization but rather from a conflict rooted in culture and the challenge of fitting into her surroundings. Anzaldúa, a Texan of Mexican origin, was born in the United States, making her a member of the Chicano group. Her native tongue was Spanish, specifically Chicano Spanish, setting her apart from both Americans and Mexicans and subjecting her to discrimination.

One poignant instance of this discrimination is vividly recounted when Anzaldúa recalls being punished for speaking Spanish at recess. She describes how she received three painful knuckle raps from a sharp ruler and was told,

"If you want to be American, speak 'American.' If you don't like it, go back to Mexico where you belong."

Such a statement, especially directed at a child, is disheartening and reveals the racism ingrained in society. While Anzaldúa herself manages to maintain a more positive outlook, many others might find themselves deeply affected or even compelled to retaliate against such prejudiced remarks.

Anzaldúa's essay takes a significant turn when she uses the term "linguistic terrorism" to describe the violation of an individual's First Amendment rights when their linguistic profile is invaded with the intent of admonition. She underscores the internalized belief among Chicanas who grew up speaking Chicano Spanish, wherein they perceive their language as "poor Spanish" and use these language differences against each other. This moment in her essay becomes a rallying point, a call to unite all those who have faced discrimination, urging them to support her virtuous mission.

Further along, Anzaldúa aptly articulates,

"we don't identify with the Anglo-American cultural value, and we don't totally identify with the Mexican cultural values. We are a synergy of two cultures with various degrees of Mexicanness or Angloness."

This statement underscores the interconnectedness of language and culture, demonstrating how these facets cannot be neatly separated and how they lead to variations in language and beliefs among individuals.

Unlike Kincaid, who grapples with her identity more privately, Anzaldúa is candid and open about her struggle. She becomes an active participant in the Chicano revolution, fighting for recognition and representation. Her personal journey substantiates the argument that an imposed identity can profoundly alter an individual's self-perception and perspective. Anzaldúa does not fully identify with either Anglos or Mexicans, and she employs a hybrid of English and Spanish in her writing to emphasize her unique stance on the matter of forced identity.

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In conclusion, the imposition of an unwelcome identity is intrinsically tied to social and cultural influences and often hinges on the beliefs held by others. Kincaid's experience illustrates the mistreatment and deception she faced due to colonization, leading to her feelings of anger both towards the colonizing nation and herself for accepting those lies. In contrast, Anzaldúa's narrative delves into her sense of displacement and mistreatment by both her host country and her ancestral homeland. She strives for acceptance as an American with Mexican heritage, refusing to be tethered to either identity. Both essays fundamentally relate to the issue of understanding one's true identity and resisting forced conformity, highlighting the significance of self-discovery and growth. Identity is a crucial element that individuals continually reevaluate throughout their lives to facilitate personal growth. Thus, those who disrupt this natural process with ethnocentric views harm not only individuals but also future generations vital for the progression of society.

Works Cited

  1. Anzaldúa, G. (1987). How to Tame A Wild Tongue. In C. R. Taylor (Ed.), Multiculturalism and the politics of recognition: An essay (pp. 411-428). Princeton University Press.
  2. Anzaldúa, G. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Aunt Lute Books.
  3. Kincaid, J. (1991). On Seeing England for the First Time. Transition, 51, 32-40.
  4. Kincaid, J. (1999). A Small Place. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  5. U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. (n.d.). Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  6. García, J. A., & Manzano, M. (2013). Linguistic Terrorism in Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo and Julia de Burgos's Canto en mi tierra. Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures, 67(2), 84-100.
  7. Yudice, G. (2005). The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era. Duke University Press.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Unwelcomed Identities Explored by Kincaid and Anzaldua. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from
“Unwelcomed Identities Explored by Kincaid and Anzaldua.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
Unwelcomed Identities Explored by Kincaid and Anzaldua. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 Apr. 2024].
Unwelcomed Identities Explored by Kincaid and Anzaldua [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Aug 06 [cited 2024 Apr 14]. Available from:
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