What we do at a young age is what shapes our future. The things we are taught, the activities we participate in, and the people we are surrounded with influence us in a large amount of ways. Our self-identity is molded at a young age, but continues to change as we get older depending on the experiences we go through.At a young age, we start developing our sense of self, slowly figuring out who we are and why we are meant to be here. Everything we do shapes how we see ourselves. The people we surround ourselves with, like family and friends, have an enormous impact on who we become and most importantly how we see ourselves. We learn from others by watching and then doing, we become who we surround ourselves with. So, it’s important for everyone to associate themselves with the right people for the right reasons. Self-identity and the activity theory can come hand in hand. Identity is concerned largely with the question: “Who are you?” What does it mean to be who you are? Identity relates to our basic values that dictate the choices we make(Shahram ,Ph.D).
“Bien Pretty,” as the title implies, is a story that invests in appearance and self-identity. Cisneros definitely tries to show the reader that there are alternative possibilities for women. Certainly she has presented the reader with some bona fide relationships or mistresses, but this story presents a woman who becomes satisfied with herself and her life alone. Throughout the story, prettiness is used as a proxy for authenticity and confidence in one’s identity, while ugliness is a stand-in for performed identity. Flavio’s appearance initially attracts Lupe because he physically calls to mind ancient Aztec imagery. She finds him pretty, however, not because he has symbolic cultural value, but because he is comfortable in his modern Mexican identity. Only after Flavio leaves does Lupe use ‘pretty’ to reflect upon her own authenticity: “Everything’s like it was. Except for this. When I look in the mirror, I’m ugly. How come I never noticed before?” (160). In this passage, Lupe becomes critical of her appearance and, by proxy, of the inauthenticity of her performed identity. This self-reflection is pivotal because it begins a series of reflections in which Lupe questions beliefs she has held up to this point in the story. This passage starts the trend of self-reflection that leads her away.
Today, younger teens and young adults face with self-identity. Half of the people can relate to Lupe. ” Psychologists assume that the identity formation is a matter of “finding oneself” by matching one’s talents and potential with available social roles (Shahram ,Ph.D).One thing she does to cope with all these feelings is to bombard herself with telenovelas, or Spanish soap operas. She begins to heal as she identifies with the characters on the screen. “And in my dreams, I’m slapping the heroine to her senses because I want them to be women who make things happen, not women who things happen to” (161). Basically She wants these women to be the real women she knows in real life. She decides that women should be both passionate and powerful, tender and volatile, and brave and fierce. Men should not be the only ones who retain these powerful qualities, while women are either evil or sweet. She wants to see women who are “passionate and powerful, tender and volatile, brave. And, above all, fierce” (161).
This sudden need to see real women on the telenovelas symbolizes Lupe understanding real women. She can be everything to herself. She does not need a man to save her or make her life endurable. She can be everything for herself and to herself. She can be stronger than the women on telenovelas. In fact, she already is. She is like the girlfriends, aunts, and mothers she knows, not like these actresses. Another thing she does to dramatize her shift in beliefs is to change around the fairy tale of the Prince and Princess, which is like the story of Sleeping Beauty. The old fairy tale that we have all been told implies that a woman is somehow not whole until she is with a man. Instead of the sleeping Princess helplessly and endlessly waiting for her Prince to rescue her, the Prince is the one lying around waiting. The man is helplessly waiting for a woman to come and kiss him and rescue him. This signifies Lupe’s shift in beliefs. A woman no longer needs to wait passively for a man to come and rescue her. In this case, the Princess becomes the rescuer. Women can do things for themselves and take responsibility for their own happiness. This is shown later in the story as well.
By the end of this story, she understands so much more about herself. She wants to learn to “live our lives the way lives were meant to be lived. With the throat and wrists. With rage and desire, and joy and grief, and love till it hurts, maybe. But goddam, girl. Live” (163). She describes herself as part of her watching herself and the other part of her living her life, but over and over again, “everywhere I go, it’s me and me” (163). She has learned to love herself and support herself emotionally. She lives with ultimate anticipation of each day, enjoying herself and doing what is good for her. If love comes into her life, she may be willing to accept it, but she is not looking for it. She is finally okay with being by herself. She ends with a profound statement showing her new view of life. “Just because it’s today, today. With no thought of the future or past. Today. Hurray. Hurray!” (165).
Cisneros, Sandra. “Bien Pretty.” Woman Hollering Creek and other stories, Vintage Books, March 1992, pp. 137-165.
Heshmat, Shahram. “Basics of Identity.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 8 Dec. 2014, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-choice/201412/basics-identity.