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Honors English Foundations 1 - B4

Ms. Wenick Paige Castelhano January 6th, 2017

How can Traumatic Experiences Force a Change in our Identities?

Hurricanes are bound to come. Everyone is guaranteed to experience death. People will

continue to live lives of suffering. War will continue likely for many years. What happens to us

after we’re affected by tragic experiences such as these? In “The Necklace” by Guy de

Maupassant, “Remarks by the President at Sandy Hook Interfaith Prayer Vigil” speech by

President Barack Obama, “Remarks on Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.” by Robert F.

Kennedy, “The Rose that Grew from Concrete” by Tupac Shakur, and the film Saving Mr.

Banks, we are shown many ways in which people are affected by life-changing experiences.

Traumatic experiences can force a change in our identities by causing us to become better

people, to unite, and to change our views.

Traumatic and life-changing experiences can influence us to become better people. In

“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, Mathilde Loisel had always longed to become wealthy.

She borrows a friend’s diamond necklace to go to a fancy occasion, but loses it at some point

during the night while she was preoccupied in a prideful state. Madame Loisel’s husband spent

thousands of francs to replace the necklace, which put them in a huge debt. On page 6 of the

story, the author describes a new version of the main character: “Madame Loisel came to know

the ghastly life of abject poverty. From the very first she played her part heroically. This fearful

debt must be paid off. She would pay it” (de Maupassant, 6). Here, there is an apparent change in

Madame Loisel’s identity. She is determined to work hard in order to pay off the loans she and

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her husband had taken in order to buy the new necklace. She experienced what others had to go

through in order to live. Later, on the same page, Madame Loisel is described and we can tell

that her priorities had changed. “She had become like all the other strong, hard, coarse women of

poor households. Her hair was badly done, her skirts were awry, her hands were red” (de

Maupassant, 6). Mathilde no longer spent her days sitting in sadness, only caring about her

appearance and riches.

Instead, she worked for her

can change, making us better people.

After traumatic experiences, our identities

As well as changing individuals, tragic experiences can cause a community to unite. This

force of change usually occurs when a large group is hit by devastation. After the Sandy Hook

tragedy, President Obama gave a speech to the community in order to give remembrance to the

lives lost and send an important message. “You are not alone in your grief… whatever measure

of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with

you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown -- you are not alone” (Obama, 1).

The President told the community that the world joins them in their sadness because of the prior

event. He says to the people of Newtown “you can’t do it by yourself… this job of keeping our

children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together” (Obama, 2). These

words are meant to persuade the audience to unite and help one another through their troubles. It

is shown that in addition to grieving the lives of people who passed away during the devastating

event, the President wishes for everyone to come together as a community and country.

Another example of a tragic event which caused people to unite is the assassination of

Martin Luther King Jr. In Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s speech, “Remarks on Assassination of

Martin Luther King Jr.”, he reaches out to the audience about taking action to continue MLK’s

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legacy. Kennedy suggested that “We can move in that direction as a country, in greater

polarization - black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward

one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to

comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land,

with an effort to understand, compassion and love” (Kennedy, 1). After the death of MLK,

Bobby Kennedy wanted those who strived for equality with Martin Luther King Jr. to continue to

as well as encourage others to stand with them. He repeats this idea again, saying “What we need

in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we

need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and

compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our

country, whether they be white or whether they be black” (Kennedy, 1-2). It is clear that

Kennedy wants the people to unite instead of segregate further and let racists win the battle

against equality. Traumatic experiences such as these cause people to unite and help each other

in times of despair.

Our views and goals can be altered by traumatic experiences in many ways. The short

poem “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” by Tupac Shakur symbolizes his success. Because

the flower proved “nature’s law is wrong” (Shakur, 3), it changed the opinions of everyone who

doubted it. “By keeping it's dreams, / it learned to breathe fresh air. / Long live the rose that grew

from concrete / when no one else ever cared” (Shakur, 5-8). No one thought it was possible for a

rose to grow from concrete and survive, but the rose overcame its struggles and proved to itself

and everyone else that it could be successful. In a completely different way, the film Saving Mr.

Banks(Hancock) – which is based on a true story – shows how the author of “Mary Poppins”,

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P.L. Travers, is changed by a traumatic experience. Throughout the movie, she has flashbacks to

her rough childhood where her father drank excessively, causing her family to fall apart. Once he

passes away, P.L. Travers is forced to grow up and stop using her imagination. As an adult, she

moves far away from home and uses a pen name to write books based on her childhood with

Mary Poppins as the main character. Since she is so attached to her books, she refuses to let the

Walt Disney Company modify the story to become a childish fairy tale. Travers’ closeness with

her father and being that he was the one who let her stay a child changed her identity in a huge

way after he died. Her views on the way Walt Disney acts and handles business would almost

definitely be different if her father was alive throughout her childhood into adulthood. Traumatic

experiences can change our morals in life.

Tragic events can force us to reshape our identities in many ways. They encourage us to

become better people, to strive to unite and connect with others, and we change our opinions

after a traumatic experience hits us. We react to all happenings in life and the outcomes can be

negative or positive in changing who we are. Whenever there is a dramatic change in our lives,

we can only move past it and change our identity in some way. How these events change us can

have a huge impact on the way we lead the rest of our lives. While it is ultimately our choice

how we react to a given situation, the event itself is the catalyst in making our decision.

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MLA Works Cited

de Maupassant, Guy. “The Necklace.” Literature, edited by Allen, Janet, 1st ed., McDougal

Littel, 2002, 1-7

Saving Mr. Banks. Dir. John Lee Hancock. Prod. Alison Owen, Ian Collie, and Philip Steuer. By

Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Perf. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. Walt Disney

Studios Motion Pictures, 2013. Film.

Kennedy, Robert Francis. “Remarks on Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.” Indiana, United

States of America, Indianapolis. 4 Apr. 1968. Speech.

Obama, Barack Hussein, II. “Remarks by the President at Sandy Hook Interfaith Prayer Vigil.”

Connecticut, United States of America, Newtown. 16 Dec. 2012. Speech.

Shakur, Tupac. “The Rose That Grew from Concrete.” 5 Jan. 2017