Ego, a sense of self, is a conflict that all characters must face in many different genres and literatures. Many people have their own definition of what ego means, however, www. dictionary. com defines ego as the “I or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, or willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought. Many authors use ego as a central theme because it can easily be related to the reader and the audience.
Throughout our world today many define others as having an alter ego or a superego. As I grew up I learned that having an ego meant to be yourself, that is how I know to live my life. It is important for us not to fully depend on others, but to have confidence within ourselves. Our society is very unique about our actions, finding our sense of self is difficult because of the changing perspective in the world. Ego is shown through the society, being an individual, and looking towards others for guidance.
In the novels Anthem, Life of Pi, Girl in Hyacinth Blue and the play Julius Caesar, along with the essay of Self – Reliance, all similar, but different in the same way, the authors each explore the concept of ego; ultimately, they argue that you can’t have freedom unless you know who your real self is. Anthem, by Ayn Rand, is a novel written to pursue the theme of ego that is based upon Rand’s beliefs of objectivism, which gives high honors to the self. Through showing her beliefs, Rand describes the society of limited technology and no advancements due to the high percentage of individuality among the citizens.
All of their life, they are taught to live for the “we,” not knowing that they are individuals who need to learn to live for themselves. “Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is written on the iron bracelet which all men wear on their left wrists with their names upon it” (Rand, 18). As a whole society they are treated for the “we” and the individuals that they are. These unusual names of the characters strike the major theme of Anthem. Since the people of the society had no concept of individuality, they could not have individual names, only numbers. Some names represented good, and others were just hypocritical to the society. Liberty 5-3000,” may have symbolized liberty among the citizens, but on the other hand, “Equality 7-2521,” might mean the equality among average men. Equality 7-2521, the protagonist, struggles himself within the society. He tried to fulfill the laws of the society, but his professions as a street sweeper made him hold in his passion of science. “We loved the Science of Things. And in the darkness, in the secret hour, when we awoke in the night and there were no brothers around us… and we thought that we wished to be sent to the Home of the Scholars when our time would come” (Rand, 23).
While street sweeping one day, Equality 7-2521 finds a part of him that had been missing for some time now. While Equality is living in a forest he finds a sense of freedom that allows him to speak of the word “I. ” Later on, after discovering his sense of self, he began to rebuild the society from the “Unmentionable Times” to a society where freedom was opened to all. “And yet there is no shame in us and no regret. We say to ourselves that we are a wretch and a traitor. But we feel no burden upon our spirit and no fear in our heart.
And it seems to us that out spirit is clear as a lake troubled by no eyes save those of the sun. And in our heart – strange are the ways of evil! – in our heart there is the first peace we have known in twenty years” (Rand, 37). Perhaps what the situation is, it could take a couple of years, or even a lifetime to find your true ego that represents you. Through Rand’s book Anthem, she expresses that ego is important because without self you cannot live life to the fullest. Life of Pi, a novel by Yann Martel, has a different way of expressing the concept of ego.
Between two similar and different stories, Pi is trying to survive for himself. He struggles with his morals and eventually goes against his own moral system to survive. Pi ends up losing his sense of self; between Piscine and Richard Parker, Pi would be the most egotistical. Not only does he lose his sense of self, but he isn’t quite sure which religion he wants to believe or what morals he wanted to follow from the beginning. In order to compromise to his beliefs he practiced Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity all at the same time. Pi didn’t really care about others or how he got what he needed.
When he caught sight of something, he went with his first instinct, to go for it. “It’s the plain truth: without Richard Parker, I wouldn’t be alive today to tell you my story” (Martel, 164). Without Richard Parker, Pi would not be alive today to tell his story. The “you” in the sentence is the author in which Pi relates numerous times too. In the first story, we find Richard Parker is a tiger and at first scares Pi. Eventually, Pi comes to love the tiger because it soothes him and saves him from his loneliness. The training and taking care of Richard Parker fills up Pi’s long, empty days killing time.
In the second story, Pi himself is the tiger. Pi chose a tiger because he facing violence, brutal force, and the lack of intelligence. Pi must return to nature and back to his animal instincts. He must embrace aggression in order to kill the cook who might have even killed him. All in all, Pi faces multiple difficulties, but the most important one is his survival for food. His mind tells him to whatever is needed to sustain his life at sea; therefore, he is acceptable to eat the sailor. In Life of Pi, while Pi studies three religions this is what he says to be morally right.
Girl in Hyacinth Blue, a novel by Susan Vreeland plays off people’s sense of self and many experiences in different ways. The author painted a fictional painting of Magdalena and wrote stories that tracked back in time. The stories related to how the painting affected each of the owners lives. Each story shows a new way in which the lives are affected. Cornelius Englebrecht’s father was the current owner, who stole it from a poor Jewish family while working as an S. S. officer during the Holocaust. Cornelius knew of his father’s innocence and ego, however, the painting showed the exact opposite. Together they went over every square inch of the painting, seduced anew by its charms, yet the rapture was insufficient to drown out the truth Cornelius could no longer deny” (Vreeland, 19). Because of the painting, Cornelius had to accept his father’s ways and deeds; from the painting representing a first love with Laurens to major part of Magdalena’s life. Laurens gave his wife the painting on their anniversary, yet this particular painting still reminded him of his previous love. Soon after, his wife found out, she was very discouraged. Day after day, they knew that both were lucky to have each other.
The painting also represented a major part in Magdalena’s life. Ultimately she was the focus point of her father’s beautiful painting. When Magdalena was older, she wished to buy the painting by her father; she never mentioned this idea to her father, but one day’s shows that the painting brought her and her father closer. Also, this painting shows a piece of her inner freedom she had always hid. Over the years, each of the different owners had some way in which the painting touched their lives. It was not only important, but unique; that is why this painting is much loved.
With each new owner, each person learned something new about their ego and a sense that they learned just one more thing about themselves. Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, displays a different picture than Ayn Rand’s novel Anthem. This play is set in the 1600’s when Brutus, a friend of Caesar’s was the Roman praetor. When Caesar arose to a Roman general, his ambition and ego were two factors that brought him down. “Nor heaven nor earth have been at peace tonight. Thrice hath Calpurnia in her sleep cried out, “Help, ho! They murder Caesar! ” - Who’s within? (Shakespeare, 78 11: 1-3). Even though Caesar was accomplished in many things, he did not have to think twice about accepting any honors that he was offered. Caesar is thought of as the most powerful and glorious ruler that has ever come to Rome. However, the only thing that Caesar cares about is his power and his reputation. He has just returned from killing Pompey and his sons; his only reasoning has to do with his ambition for power and glory. Although, Caesar may be powerful, his power is sought in the wrong way. Not only was Caesar selfish, but Cassius and Brutus were too.
Cassius wanted to overthrow Caesar because he was selfish and wanted the throne. On the other hand Brutus was more of the selfless character because he wanted to overthrow Caesar for a good reason. Not only was Caesar threatening the country, but the lives of many. Throughout, Shakespeare argues that a big ego can get you in deep trouble. Not only did this cost Caesar his life, but it also affected his close friends who supported him. Without ego, this play would not have even taken place because Caesar rose to such high authority with his sense of selfishness for no one but himself.
Self – Reliance, an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson was first published in 1841. The essay has three major divisions: the importance of self - reliance, self – reliance and being an individual, and self – reliance in a society. Emerson starts his major work on individualism by saying that it is important to think for yourself, rather than open up to others ideas. “To believe that what is true in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius” (Emerson). If someone chooses to rely on others opinions, rather than their own, they lack the creativeness that is necessary for individualism.
A common theme that ties the first section of the essay together is to trust your inner self. Society is not the measure of all things; an individual is. Throughout this essay, Emerson’s label for an individual is “belongs to no other time or place, but is the center of all things. ” Meaning, if you find you ego and be yourself, you will be the center of your world and your own individuality. Many thoughtless people cannot understand the concept of self – reliance because thoughtless people are too worried about being consistent as the society wants them to be.
People every day struggle with finding their self – reliance. Not just young adults, but a variety of all ages. Therefore, instead of working hard and looking deeper within ourselves, we just take the easy route, by depending on others to do our work for us. Emerson says that too many people are led by suggestion, desires, and others feelings. Seemingly, it would be better for us to go with our own instincts because our society is so different and others don’t always think the same way that we do. Instead of practicing for our self, we give in on others.
Men should learn not to fully depend on others, but be mindful of them. Ultimately, everyone has a sense of self, however, it may take a long to time to find the real you. It is important that as we live our lives, not to be lonely but to interact with others. As in Anthem, when Equality 7-2521 found himself one day while in a tunnel street sweeping, he decided to create society that was like him because it was a much better way of life. Between two similar stories in Life of Pi, Pi doesn’t really know which way to go. He doesn’t know what moral system to believe or what religion[s] to practice.
Therefore, while he is stranded on an island, he struggles to have a sense of self and know who he is. Throughout the novels Anthem, Life of Pi, Girl in Hyacinth Blue and the play Julius Caesar, along with the essay of Self – Reliance, they all have a different way in expressing their sense of ego. Although, each individual author portrays this characteristic, they have a sensible way in doing so. All in all, the message that all of the sources give is to not rely on others for support, but to look deep within yourself to find your own individuality.