Anarchy in the Tenth Grade by Greg Graffin Term Paper

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Anarchy in the Tenth Grade": A Retrospective Analysis of an Adolescent's Search for self

So much of an individual's later life is contingent upon his or her search for a coherent sense of self, as achieved in childhood and adolescence. The personal essay entitled "Anarchy in the 10th Grade" by punk music legend Greg Graffin, as well as short stories such as Ernest Hemingway's "Indian Camp," and Sandra Cisneros' "Hips" all detail the phenomena of coming of age in young adolescence. The authors show how internal and external struggles to achieve a sense of identity, although common and even necessary to people of this age group, can be intensely painful. In his short story, Hemingway shows a young boy physically developing a sense of his manhood, in after seeing his father help an Indian woman give birth. Cisneros' narrator debates the intricacies of the female form from a female perspective, viewing the prospect of having an adult body with a mix of fear, hope, and disdain. But perhaps the most unique selection from the second section of the ninth edition of The Conscious Reader, entitled, "A Search for Self," shows how an apparently alienating art form, that of punk, can form a more positive, unique, and vital sense of self than more conventional means, such as gaining a sense of one's masculinity or femininity in relation to one's elders, as do Cisneros and Hemingway. Thesis: {Though the adolescent 'tribal identity' of punk may seem limiting, Graffin emerges from his struggle stronger and more open in his perspective on life, than individuals who pursue a more socially acceptable form of adolescence.}

Graffin characterizes his adolescence early on as one in which he was always forced to be in reaction to something. He admits he did not initially choose this reaction. His opposition to his adolescent environment was forced to include even the clothing of his peers. Unlike the wealthier students of his suburban California enclave, he had to wear Payless Shoes and velour shirts from Kmart. Note how important brand names are in defining identity in Graffin's adolescent setting. What one wore and what one could afford, or what one's parents could afford, was equated with an individual's sense of self.

Graffin's sense of not being the same as others penetrated even deeper than the class markers of status he observed in the world around him. Even his hair, he felt, was wrong, too fluffy to conform to the standard rock hairdo. Like Cisneros's female narrators, he experienced his own physicality as strange and alien to those around him. However, because his sense of physical alienation was something that could be 'bought and sold' in the form of clothing and good haircuts, Graffin had no assurance that he would grow into a stable sense of a male body. The adolescent Graffin felt that his body would always be wrong, no matter how he matured.

The sense of physical alienation Graffin experienced was paralleled in his sense of social alienation because of the broken nature of his family. Graffin's father was living far away in Wisconsin. Few other individuals in his Los Angeles area came from so-called broken homes. Graffin, to find his place, quite consciously assumed an alliance with geeks and nerds, partly because, it is also implied, he felt he could not get along or be accepted by anyone else. He felt he needed the protection, as many adolescents do, of a tribe or group, where he could feel accepted. These were the only people whom he felt accepted by, those upon the margins of high school society.

Thus, his sense of physical alienation was not only somatic, or bodily, for Graffin, but was also experienced as a loss of his sense of physical place in the world. Los Angeles was initially a new and disturbing environment to the young adolescent Graffin. He did not understand the language of slang he heard around him, taking months to realize that 'party,' rather than meaning merely having a good time with others actually meant, in wasted L.A. teenage-speak, 'getting high,' or a specific kind of 'good time.' The disdain with which he relates this anecdote also shows that, for all of his anger and anarchism, Graffin was seeking a kind of personal liberation that could not be easily found in narcotics.

Instead, Graffin put his own talents to use, in creating his identity through music, rather than trying to conform to the culture that rejected him. Although he initially became…

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