Literature can commonly be described as the creative imagination put in writing. It is an avenue through which writers and aspiring writer convey their thoughts to the general public by use of words and phrases that are beyond the scope of human imagination. The study of literal works is largely based upon interpretation and analysis contrary to science which is based on facts. It introduces us to new worlds of experience; the humor and the tragedies of poems, stories, and plays; and we may even grow and evolve through our literary adventure with books. An umber of books and literary works are famous for their artistic ingenuity these are; ‘Alice in wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll (second edition) and "The Ethics of Identity" by Kwame Anthony Appiah.
Set in the Victorian era the book ‘Alice in wonderland’ is about a young girl namely Alice who experiences a world of magic when she accidentally steps inside her mirror and is transported to a world of talking animals and large and endless doors. She finds a kingdom ruled by a tyrannical queen and her few noble steeds. The try to kill her but she is helped by speaking animals that she did not know could speak. It is almost impossible for the mortal brain to keep up. Regardless of the enchantment of the talking animals, ingenuity of the costumes, the enormity of the Queen's head, it's nothing but a house of cards. "As [Carroll's] protagonist Alice journeys from place to place, witnessing nursery rhymes being brought to life and fighting bloodthirsty royals made of cards, we experience something that for the Victorians was just as stunning as a dream.
This real life Alice is no poorer for curiosity and playfulness; she declines wearing stockings or corsets like proper Victorian girls and once to her mother’s disbelief missteps while dancing uncoordinatedly. Faced with a major decision, being a proper English girl and being her own self, she runs away to Wonderland, the place she imagined and fantasized about since she was a little girl. What ensues is mind boggling even the viewer. The of foundation of Alice is that the citizens of Wonderland are anticipating a hero as prophesied in their magic scroll, one who will defeat the Jabberwocky on the ‘Frabjous Day’ with the ‘Vorpal ‘sword.
It ensues that this savior as described in their scroll is a young girl with long blonde hair and is obviously Alice, but many questions arise regarding the competence if this ‘savior’; is she the right one and if not, who is? How can they know who is right and who is wrong and if they should care? Although interesting, this stereotypical story can be foreseen that Alice will obviously slay the antagonist and return to her true world having explored and find herself. We know Alice connects with the unusual and unconventional, the people who need redemption, but just being subjected to this presence drives the audience into frenzy and an unwieldy addition to the plot. Carrols character the Red Queen is the bratty, temperamental queen with a neediness that turns to anger at the slightest provocation. White Queen however is hopefully a caricature of royalty, with huge eyes, an empathetic heart, a musical voice, a tendency to walk as if floating, and a highly irritating manner of holding her hands and arms (Miller, par.3).
Alice in wonderland is a tremendous virtual experience that brings together wonderful literature and artistic genius. This book, as well as The Ethics of Identity" by Kwame Anthony Appiah explain the misjudged and misunderstood stereotypes that are faced when one tries to identify oneself.
Racial profiling, cultural and sexual orientation, nationality, religion, gender, have been widely and broadly discussed in the past. This is because they are regarded as issues that can either bring people together or tear the apart they fight for recognition and acceptance, sometimes at the expense of other things we value. But to what extent do these identities constrain our freedom or disable or enable our individuality? In this work of art, world renowned philosopher and African Studies scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah urges us to critically look at these issues. The Ethics of Identity seriously evaluates both the claims of uniqueness and identity, these large and often concrete social stereotypes through which we categorize ourselves.
In the book ‘The Ethics of Identity’ Appiah develops an account of ethics that connects moral obligations with collective loyalties, our uniqueness with our identities. He describes that the issue of ‘who’ we are is often influences by our surrounding. Using a broadly open perspective, Appiah pin points the clichés and stereotypes amid which talk of identity so often founded, he discusses what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ culture, does culture really define someone, Are moral and ethical obligations the only kind there are? Has the theory of "human rights" been overrated? Ultimately, his arguments make it harder to think of the world as divided between the ‘West and the Rest’; between ‘poor and elite’; between ‘Us and Them’. The answer is a new idea of a liberal human race.
‘The Ethics of Identity’ is simply straightforward. It defines the demands of 'individuality,' and rejects extreme understandings of what nature requires. It analyses the relationship between individual and societal identity to morals, ethics and culture. This literary genius has very interesting and original information about a liberal state affecting the inner life of its citizens. Not only is the philosophy direct; it is simple, transparent, and approachable. He concentrates on a two-sided question: how we acquire an individual identity and how we find and make an identity that is not a hoax. In pursuing this question, he explores one of the most memorable and difficult questions in ethical history, the relationship between general practices and particular cultural attachments. Many attest that Appiah is the finest literary stylist of the 19th century and reading’ The Ethics of Identity’ is to venture into the realm it describes. ‘It is also to imagine what it might be like to live in so urbane and expansive a place’ (Jonathan Freedman)
The two books are closely interrelated in that one book is basically an analysis of the other. Appiah’s book mostly talks about the societal stereotypes that one undergoes in the process of finding oneself. In Lewis’ book, we see Alice being alienated from her society with her mother even being ashamed of her all because Alice does not conform to the Victorian standards. Alice escapes into another world where she discovers a side of her self that she did not know ever existed. The former writer explains how it is not advisable to carry ourselves how society views us but instead go against all odds and practices to make meaning in your life.
In her normal Victorian setting, we see Alice being a sort of outcast in her community, when she travels into the wonderland, we see Alice not being in much of a predicament. In a normal situation, we would expect that Alice be frightened and would try to run away from her assailants, on the contrary Alice takes on her predicaments head on without fear. She isn’t afraid to venture into a world where everyone around her possesses some form of magical ability and she does not. She is not afraid of talking animals or cards and converses with the evil queen as if she’s a peer. She courageously takes on the jabberwocky to save the lives of the creatures in the wonderland and even sees the downfall of the evil red queen. Alice identifies with this world and eventually comes into a sense of belonging with this world of magic. She stops fearing them and comes to comfortably co-exist with the life forms.
Appiah would comfortably regard Alice as a perfect example of one whose identity is not influenced by her societal assumptions. The Ethics of Identity is one of the most thought out and thorough analysis on the very popular cultural and identity debates .Writing as an artist and societal analyst with diverse training, deep oriental sensitivities, and a valuable personal history, Appiah adequately surveys and analyses cultural stereotypes.. We could journey back in time and discover the issues addressed in The Ethics of Identity are as old as globalization itself. What makes this literary writing so unique at this moment are the intense differences and inter-penetrations of disparately aged and variegated cultures, and the need to come to terms with how to accommodate them before we misjudge and misconstrue each other so unfairly that we live in a society of escalated cultural, national, and religious conflicts (Kwame Appiah, par 24). As we try possibly progress to the ‘cosmopolitanism’ that Appiah describes and seeks in his book.
This is a wonderful book, especially attesting to the fact that Appiah also touched on in Cosmopolitanism, differences between ethics and morals, the ways in which identities are valuable, the proper preservation of human rights, the value of conversation across borders. The writing is well researched and intelligent. As a highly recognized western writer, Appiah argues that the description of culture is ultimately determined by the amount of intellectual interaction. From his analysis, his goal is ultimately, on the visionary social, political and economic development of nations, which presumes that capitalism is or should be globally viewed as a better option of life and modernity. Appiah has been a critic of contemporary theories such as identity, race and moral theory that have tackled timeless problems (Myers, par 4).
His argument gives legitimacy both to the claims of individuality, realizing one's own ability, and identity, which are often built on the main standards through which we define ourselves. Judging from the wealth of Appiah’s publications, it is clearly shown that he is a man conversant within multiple disciplines and cultural practices (Jansen,2005,par 1). His literary works top the best seller lists from literary philosophy, novels, essays on African art, and to editing poetry and encyclopedias.
Although Professor Appiah had created quite a reputation as a professional philosopher, it was with the 1992 classical publication ‘In My Father's House’, a story about Africa's struggle for identity in a world governed by Western values that placed him at the top of the contemporary African studies food chain. He later expanded his collection with Africana,’ The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience.’
‘The reason why people believe that there is a contrast between Mill's notions of dignity and individuality and these other notions is not because the central preoccupation with dignity and individuality is particularly Western. What is distinctive about the modern liberal notion is the idea that this is a set of rights that belongs to all. The first place to start is not to allow people to conflate a respect for individuality with individualism. To hold that people are bearers of abstract rights and equal dignity is not to hold that we should simply spend our lives pursuing our own self-interest. The development of one's individuality, for Mill and for all philosophical liberals, entails recognizing that one is a social being, that one has moral obligations and that by way of one's identity one is intimately connected with other people. Nevertheless, identity has been seen to be a problem for liberalism, partly by opponents who have conflated respect for individuality with a form of egoistic pursuit of individualism.’ as stated by Kwame Anthony Appiah.
In the last chapter of the book, Appiah urges for a stand he calls "rooted cosmopolitanism" (The ethics of identity, pg.213). The rooted cosmopolitanist does not ignore his roots in his own culture, but he is open-minded with regard to other cultures. He argues that we should seek "conversation, not mere conversion" (The ethics of identity, pg.264). With dialogue, or so Appiah hopes, we could also help members of other cultures in understanding of the value of human rights.
The issues Appiah raises are of philosophical interest as well as of political importance. His works are well written and bare of complexities, but require undivided attention when reading it. ‘I wish, however, that this attention will be given to the book and its argument not only by philosophers but also by social workers, psychologists and politicians, by all those who care for the society’(Kwame Antony Appiah)
Both these two books are a culmination of each others content and Appiah’s book generally explains Lewis’ book. The formers book defends Alice’s individualism as part and parcel of clear liberalism. It is the person that matters morally, and it is the people for whom liberalists like himself protest the right of a free choice of ones own way of life. This all means that humans depend on each other for both their physical and psychic wellness of being.
Appiah, Kwame. The Ethics of Identity,2005.Web.02 Nov 2010
Jansen,Ludger. Review - The Ethics of Identity, 09, Dec 2005.web.02 Nov 2010
Myers,Joanne.the Ethics of identity.Kwame Appiah Interview,16 feb 2005.web.02,Nov
Miller,Jenni. Review: Alice in wonderland,4 mar 2010.web.02 Nov 2010