There are times when people inevitably lose their own identities due to the unavoidable influences of the cultures and their environments. For many years, a lot of people, particularly children, constantly formed and shaped their own beings by learning and encountering the foundation of their own tradition that has been transferred from one generation to another including spoken language, custom, and symbol. These values support people to develop their ideal self-concept and behaviors. Garnet, the protagonist of the novel shows the importance of tradition and storytelling when it comes to defining the identity. The novel, Keeper’ n Me by Richard Wagamese depicts how culture can play a significant role in supporting individual’s self-concept, belief, and self-esteem in order to form true identity.
The first way Richard Wagamese establishes the importance of culture is by showing how it can have profound impact on developing individual’s self-concept. Culture gives a strong courage to individuals to view themselves as unique and indispensable human beings who are significant in a huge community. In addition, it helps people to develop their self-concept in a positive way. In the novel, Garnet gets separated from his family and the culture as he says “Growing up in all-white homes, going to all-white schools, playing with all-white kids can get a guy to thinking and reacting all-white himself after a while. With no one pitching in any information I just figured I was a brown white guy” (17, Wagamese). These new environments around Garnet have given him only one choice but to be involved in the white culture and compel him to hide his own identity. As a result, isolation from his own culture has made him to lack the essential knowledge that he needs to develop for his own ideal self-concept. Being part of the culture where one does not feel a sense of belonging strongly discourages to find one’s true self because once, people feel difference or they do not belong in the certain culture they start to get confused and lose their own identity. “No one could understand why I dropped my little guns and holster and ran indoors and up to my room, and I, in turn, couldn’t understand why everyone at the suppertable that night broke into uncontrollable laughter when I was asked about it and I explained, cause I don’t know how to be an Indian!” (19, Wagamese). As can be seen, culture including the setting, environment, and the surrounding is crucial to individuals as it influences the development of the self-concept and there is nothing else that can replace the own culture.
Another important factor that takes a huge account when forming the identity is belief. Beliefs can be easily influenced by the tradition of the culture as the author shows through Garnet throughout the book. Culture is like an invisible bond, most of the culture has its own belief and people try to pass that to the next generation in the same way they have believed it as the keeper says, “Remember them and talk them over with an elder to try and figure out what they’re telling you if you can’t figure them out yourself” (252. Wagamese). For this reason, people have different kinds of beliefs depending on their culture because people have beliefs based on what they have known and experienced. In the beginning of the novel, Garnet does not have a certain belief inside him since, he does not even know who he really is and which culture he belongs to; however, as he learns more about his culture he starts to have religious beliefs that an ordinary Indian would have. “That visions could be just about anything and was meant to be sacred and private thing for the seeker. Gave a direction to their life. Called it a vision quest” (252, Wagamese). As he learns more about the religious beliefs, he feels more connected to the culture and discovers his own self where he truly belongs. The first feeling of belonging that he has never experienced in the past has inculcated various beliefs inside him as he turns out to be a valuable member of the community. As shown above, people are unconsciously encouraged by the culture to form or change the belief to find who they really are, like Garnet. Once, they fit in to a specific group, they try to find something that can link themselves and the culture to feel a sense of belonging. Given these points, culture definitely has an impact on one’s belief as well as the identity depending on the tradition of the culture, it is significant that they learn how to balance between their belief and the culture.