The Artificial Confines of Personhood

While reading The Flamethrowers this weekend, I was struck by the identity crisis that Reno had as a child. “Suddenly I would feel locked into an identity, trapped inside myself, as if the container of my person were some kind of terrible mistake. My own voice and arms, my name, seemed wrong. As if I were a dispersed set of nodes that had been falsely organized into a form, and I was living in a nightmare, forced to see from out of this limited and unreal ‘me.’ I wasn’t so sure I occupied one place, one person, and Sandro said this made sense, this instinct of a child, to question the artificial confines of personhood” (101-102).  In her article, Judith Butler discusses the idea that gender is a social construction. In other words, there is no biological basis for traits that are “typically” male or female. These “norms” were created by society, and those who do not possess them are punished. Butler suggests that the body is more fluid than society allows it to be, meaning these norms are unfounded. “…the body is not merely matter but a continual and incessant materializing of possibilities. One is not simply a body, but, in some very key sense, one does one’s body and, indeed, one does one’s body differently from one’s contemporaries and from one’s embodied predecessors and successors as well.” It seems to me that Reno had this same realization. She felt constrained by the identity that she had adopted, and felt powerless to escape it. Shortly after describing her identity crisis, Reno goes on to say that “[t]elling Sandro these things collapsed the layers between me as a woman and me as a child. Sandro saw both, loved both. He understood they were not the same” (102). I think it’s possible that Reno is so drawn to Sandro because he understands her conflicts. Reno seems to be drawn in a variety of directions: art, speed, acceptance, independence, Sandro, Ronnie, etc. While Sandro is understanding of her personalities, he also seems to appreciate simplicity. I anticipate rough waters ahead for the happy couple.

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