Friday, April 13, 2007

Figuring Yourself Out

That's actually what comes to mind when I think of social competencies. As a teenager, I had to figure out my role at home, at work, and in my group of friends. I had to get used to the questions every adult seems bound to ask a teenager --Where are you going to college? What are you going to major in? -- and learn how to answer "I don't know; how should I know what I want to do with my life now?" in a socially acceptable way. I had to figure out what my role was, what I wanted it to be, and how to articulate that.

In Avalon High, Ellie has to do the same. I think it's no accident that readers can figure out who everyone "is" by page 30. Ellie (Elaine), after all, has to be Lady of Shalott. It only makes sense. It's who her mother named her after, and what Mr. Morton -- and, to some extent, the reader -- expects. "Everything" seems to point there. The role is ready for her. She just has to step up and do it. The only problem is that she doesn't want it. She refuses to accept that she really is the Lady of Shalott, and in the end, that's why she succeeds. Because of her empathy for Will, she refuses to stay out of the way like she "should." As a result, history isn't repeated. I also loved that she refused to believe that she had to play a role. Even after handing the sword to Will and being revealed as the Lady of the Lake, she refuses to be defined by that: " 'I'm not the Lady of the Lake,' I said firmly....Besides, what if it is true? If you really are Arthur; and I really am Lady of the Lake. . .well, then this isn't how the story's supposed to go, is it? With us, I mean. Together. Like this" (287-288).* Elaine was a pretty independent character to begin with, but what she and the reader learn is that you don't have to accept the role that everyone thinks is designed for you. You need to make your own way.

A lot of what I've said so far can really be said for the next asset we're going to discuss, "Positive Identity," but I think that, especially as a teenager, these two are linked. Much of the way I figured out who I was and what I wanted to be was in my interractions with my friends. What did they expect of me? Is that what I wanted? Decision-making was partially wrapped up in what I wanted, partially in what everyone else wanted or expected. Resisting peer pressure is easier when you know who you are, or as in Elaine's case, who you aren't.

*Works Cited:
Cabot, Meg. Avalon High. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.


Linda Braun said...

So does it make sense that you can't have a positive identity if you aren't socially competent? Or are they not so intertwined?

Actually, if I think about it, all of the books for this class could probably fit in this week's and the next asset. You think?

Mary said...

I think that one can have a positive identity and be socially incompetent, just as someone could be socially competent but feel rotten about themselves. I just think that, especially as a teen, part of figuring out my own identity was navigating social situations, and figuring out my "role," so to speak, in my group of friends. I was (am) the nerdy one who likes books and facts. Part of being socially competent, for me at least, was either rejecting or accepting that role, and finding the language to navigate between my personal interests and that of my friends. As a teen (and as a young adult), I had to learn to be comfortable enough in my own skin to be able to relate with people not like me. Otherwise, I would be pretty isolated at this point, because most of my friends can't really understand why I like the library (they don't like to read and they think the library's quiet).

And yes, I do agree that books for this class could fit into these competencies. I think that both social competence and personal identity are extremely common themes in (what I've read of) young adult literature, and I think they're both huge concerns at that age as well.