Identity in the Professor's Daughter Essay

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She was greatly disturbed by the White Buffalo deer hunting party because she identified and sympathised with the deer. Unlike the rash temper Bernard Jr. displayed in times of conflict, Meteke was almost silent in her pain and anguish, to the point that her husband begged her to talk to him, resorting to offers for tea, food, and foot massages to ease her tensions and cheer her (Raboteau, Professor's 72). Professor Lester was fairly clueless about what ailed her, as she chose to steer around his questioning rather than answer him directly. One evening in bed she turned away from him, and when he asked why she seemed upset she responded "I'm tired," rather than confiding in him her fear for the dear (Raboteau, Professor's 83). The reader saw very little of who Meteke was before she married Professor Lester, so her identity was only really articulated in her response to the White Buffalo. In this case, two back individuals represent two very different characters on a broad spectrum of unique identities.

The comparison that is most interesting may be between the characters of Lynn (Bernard Jr.'s wife), and her sister, Patty. They both had the same upbringing, but that youth resulted in two very different identities. Lynn was a strong woman with unquestionable morals. Throughout the novel the reader saw Lynn caring lovingly for her children, petting Bernie "like a puppy dog" (Raboteau, Professor's 4), and keeping a journal of Emma's stubborn, reoccuring rash in order to some day be able to discover the cause of it, after doctors were found to be of no help (Raboteau, Professor's 97). She also tried to be resourceful, sometimes succeeding, such as in times when she purchased "upscale, slightly damaged yardsale finds" at bargain prices (Raboteau, Professor's 10) and sometimes failing, such as in times when her attempts to involve Bernie and Emma in cleaning fell through as a result of her inconsistency (Raboteau, Professor's 11). She was also a loyal and forgiving individual, evidenced by her determination to stay by her husband despite the pain of his apathy and the fear of his unfaithfulness (Raboteau, Professor's 206). Lynn's forgiving nature is also evinced by her rapid acceptance of Patty's apology for her sexual assault on Bernard Jr. (Raboteau, Professor's 185).

This is where the two sisters' separate identities become unmistakably clear. Where Lynn's strength and virtues rang out, Patty was known for her faults. Patty could be seen as unafraid of confrontation as she held an intervention between Lynn and Bernard Jr. (Raboteau, Professor's 206), imposing as she forced her style and views upon the Boudreaux household (Raboteau, Professor's 194), and a once raging, though recovering, alcoholic (Raboteau, Professor's 215). Despite the two sisters growing up under the same conditions and having influences upon one another, they still managed to develop their own selves, two separate identities.

Emily Raboteau was frequently asked, after the Professor's Daughter was published, how much of the story was autobiographical. It was true that she shared much in common with Emma, including being biracial, growing up in the same town, having an Ivy-league professor for a father, and she, too, was plagued by the question "What are you?" Her response to that question came in the form of the Professor's Daughter, a novel that took a few years to "braid together" (Robateau, What is "Real?" 73). Raboteau made it clear through multiple points-of-view that "what" people are, their identity, is not found in the color of their skin, or the color of their parents' skin, but rather that they are all "shaped by time and history" (Bardleson 245), whether they are biracial, black, or white. It is experiences, and not skin color, that defines who we are.

Works Cited

Bardelson, Susanne, and Jackie Gropman. "The Professor's Daughter: A Novel." School

Library Journal Sep 2005: 244-245. Academic Search Premier. 2010. EBSCO

Industries Inc. 4 Dec. 2010


Raboteau, Emily. The Professor's Daughter. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2005.

-. "What is 'Real?': The Author of 'The Professor's Daughter' Spends a Lot of Time

Explaining Her Novel Isn't Autobiography." Black Issues Book Review Jul/August

2005: 72-73. Academic Search Premier. 2010. EBSCO Industries Inc. 4 Dec. 2010
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