American Born Chinese

Gene Luen Yang and Toni Morrison, On the Triumvirate of Identity 9th Grade

There is a common symbol found throughout ancient culture, the triumvirate. From the Christian Holy Trinity, the Islamic Wudu and Salat, the First Triumvirate of Rome, etc., the number three is important. This matters to us why? Because in American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang, and The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, three is the number of self. Both novels explore their themes and ideas through the idea of a triumvirate, or three part identity. This is best summarized in the Judeo-Christian interpretation of the first three numbers, starting one is perfect singularity, two is dualistic chaos, and three is perfect synthesis. It is one and two, chaos and order, synthesized by three. This concept of three representing synthesis is an excellent example of its meaning in the books, wherein the authors show that the characters have three aspects to their own identity. While identity is limitlessly complex and discrete, the three sections the authors divide it into are as follows: one, internally idealized self image, the idealized version of oneself constructed in one's own mind; two, the externally created image and identity, the version of oneself created from society's stereotypes and ideas; and three, the true internal self,...

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