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Bound Feet and Western Dress -Chang Yu-I's Struggle with Identity

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Chang Yu-i's Struggle With Identity

Are you are confused as to where you are going in life? Do you sometimes feel like you just do not know who you are, or who you want to be? Do not worry, this is not uncommon. In fact, according to psychoanalyst Erik Erickson (1902-1994), most young people ages fifteen to twenty years of age feel the same way. Erickson, a psychoanalytic theorist, took the human life cycle and categorized it into eight stages. One such stage would be identity versus role-confusion. During this stage, adolescents begin to truly form who they are in life. They form their present off of the good and bad experiences of their past. Erickson believes that the stages in the life cycle apply to nearly everyone. It does not matter where or what era you are from. Take, for example, a character from Bound Feet & Western Dress by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang. Chang writes a dual memoir of her and her great-aunt's lives. In her novel, Chang tells the story of her great aunt, Chang Yu-i, growing up in a changing world. Even though Yu-i is born and raised in China during the early 1900s, she still faces the conflicts of trying to find herself.

The psycho social crisis called 'identity versus role-confusion' occurs mainly during adolescence, although it is not restricted to this period in life. It is usually the fifth stage in the life cycle, although it may overlap with the stages before and after it. Major circumstances can also later change the outcome of this stage. Throughout this stage, a person finds himself bringing together parts of his life and combining them to form who he wants to be in life. Outside factors, such as the community or family, tend to play an indirect, but important role in forming an identity. This is true in any culture, although family plays an even more significant role in a collectivist culture, such as Yu-i's.

Chang Yu-i grows up in a family of twelve children in a small county outside Shanghai, China. Born into changing times, the struggle for finding herself is perhaps even harder and more confusing than it would be for people born today. Yu-i is born into a time when China is torn between holding on to the old traditions and adopting the ways of the western world. Throughout the early 1900s, China was in political turmoil. China had to deal with the Boxer Rebellion, the revolution against the Manchu dynasty, World War I, the Warlord era, and much more.

During this time of turmoil, the people of China did not know where to turn for help with their country's problems: the past or the future. So, they did both. The men marched forwards, expanding their education by learning not only traditional Confucianism, but also the modern knowledge of the western world. Women, however, stayed mostly in the past. Although there were some changes for the women of China, they were still expected to belong to their father, and then be passed onto their husband. Their job in life was to please their husband and family-in-law, and to bring sons in to the world. So it was for most women, including Yu-i.

The changes that did occur for the women were small but significant. One change that occurred was the decline of bound feet. Women were finally allowed to grow their feet out. Once looked upon as a sign of beauty, bound feet, or lotus petals as they were called in China, were becoming less common. Yu-i was born into the time people had opposing views as to whether or not bound feet were still considered beautiful. When she was three, Yu-i's mother and amah began to bind her feet. So terrible was the pain, that Yu-i cried and cried for days. Even when she knew it was bad for her reputation, she could not stop. Finally her sibling Second Brother went to their mother and told her to stop. Her mother did not want to hurt Yu-i, but felt that if Yu-i did not have beautiful bound feet, she would not find a suitable husband. Only when Second Brother promised to take care of Yu-i should she need to be taken care of did their mother relent. Though her mother relented, many people, especially the elders, thought that bound feet were still necessary to find a good husband. Although Yu-i was happy with her bound feet, many others had mixed feelings about them. This added to the difficulty of finding herself as Yu-i grew up and tried to become her own person.

Another change was the education of women. The education of women in China was viewed as unimportant. A woman's job was to serve her husband, and she did not need to know the Confucian

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