Native Speaker

“Necessary Fictions”: Negotiating Identity Through Storytelling in Chang-Rae Lee's Native Speaker College

In Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee, Luzan asks Henry, "Who, my young friend, have you been all your life?” (205). It is through the narrative form that Luzan is able to see beyond Henry's words. Luzan urges Henry “to take up story-forms” (206), and as Henry narrates his dilemmas to the doctor, he also negotiates his identity through his storytelling. Although Lee presents various identity markers in Native Speaker, including skin colour, gender, occupation, language and values, she reveals that such markers are inadequate in expressing a person’s entire identity, as they bear with them stereotypes of different racial and social groups and therefore tend to set up binaries of the Self versus an Other. Society imposes such markers on individuals, ridding them of the ability to construct their own identity. Identity is a representative form based on what an individual feels defines and is a part of him or her. In the face of such a dilemma, Chang-Rae Lee presents storytelling as an alternative medium in Native Speaker for an individual such as Henry to negotiate his identity.

Storytelling as a viable medium through which one can discover his or her identity might appear to suggest that verbal and written languages are...

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