“Shake yourself free from the manikin you create out of a false interpretation of what you do and what you feel, and you’ll at once see that the manikin you make yourself is nothing at all like what you really are or what you really can be! ” Luigi Pirandello
In the novel The Late Mattia Pascal (Italian: Il Fu Mattia Pascal) Luigi Pirandello (the author of the novel) tackles a relevant theme:
Mattia Pascal (the protagonist of the novel), who was mistakenly believed to be dead, decides to change his life by assuming a new identity– that of Adriano Meis– only to realize that he has no social role anymore due to his fictitious identity. Adriano Meis can not report a robbery, or marry the love of his life, Adriana, because without an identity recognized and accepted by others he is only an empty container; he is
Pirandello addresses the issue of social identity in his novel because he wants to emphasize, through the story of a single individual, a condition that affects us all:
Our identity does not form by itself, but it is created in relation to another.
Therefore most of what shapes our identity is out of our control. Things such as our family, life experiences, social class, ethnicity, and many types of groups mold our identity from the day we are born, and none of these are chosen or controlled by us.
As a matter of fact, belonging to a group is a mandatory commitment. We are born into a group (our family). We go to school and learn in groups (classes). We play sports in groups (teams). We go to church and pray together as a group (congregations). Since the day we are born we are become attached to one group or another.
In the past, natural selection favored groups. Individuals who wanted to survive had no choice but to live with the strongest group whether they liked it or not. Groups were formed according to likeness and created solely to improve the survival of mankind.
Today we still find ourselves in the habit of choosing among people who are like us and being wary of people who are different. I believe that dividing people into “us” and “them “categories is not necessary anymore. We live in comfortable houses, we buy all the food we want, and we have air conditioning and fast cars. We don’t need to be part of a group in order to survive anymore. Therefore why are we still choosing to join groups we don’t even like, hate people we don’t even know, and live with an identity shaped for us by others. Do we suffer from an innate sense that we don’t exist unless we see our reflection in the eyes of others? Like Mattia Pascal, are we not real unless we are recognized by others?
“No name. No memory today of yesterday’s name; of today’s name, tomorrow. If the name is the thing; if a name in us is the concept of every thing placed outside of us; and without a name you don’t have the concept, and the thing remains in us as if blind, indistinct and undefined: well then, let each carve this name that I bore among men, a funeral epigraph, on the brow of that image in which I appeared to him, and then leave it in peace, and let there be no more talk about it. It is fitting for the dead. For those who have concluded. I am alive and I do not conclude. Life does not conclude. And life knows nothing of names. This tree, tremulous pulse of new leaves. I am this tree. Tree, cloud; tomorrow book or wind: the book I read the wind I drink. All outside, wandering.” –Luigi Pirandello
Pirandello, Luigi. Il fu Mattia Pascal .Italian Edition. Oscar classici moderni.Mondadori. 2001. Paperback.
The Misplaced I: Il fu Mattia Pascal and the Spectrality of Identity, Andrew Martino, Southern New Hampshire University
The Tribal Instinct Hypothesis: Evolution and the Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations Mark Van Vugt .University of Kent. Justin H. Park. University of Groningen http://www.professormarkvanvugt.com/files/TheTribalInstinctHypothesis.pdf
Photo: Giaconda 1953, Magritte