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Describe selected elements of the biography clearly and succinctly, focusing on aspects that align with the theoretical areas being addressed in the essay;
Identify and discuss form/s of social division that relate to the biography, drawing from theories and concepts covered in the course;
Analyse the impact of the social divisions you have discussed on the person’s life;
Structure your work and write well; edit your work and reference correctly.

Deeper insight into Under My Skin

Under My Skin is one of the masterpieces of Doris Lessing’s first volume of autobiography. As a matter of specification, the volume enhances the clarity of the readers about how she spent her childhood in the dense forest of Africa. Time and memory is one of an important theme of this volume. Recollection of the past from the perspective of a child Doris acts as a flashback of her development (Watkins, 2016). This includes self-retrospection, adjusting relationship with parents and societal approach. Adjust with her parents is very much similar to the relationship portrayed in  Gosses’ Father and Son. 

Doris’ development amidst an adjusting environment, strains her biological relationship with her parents. Her uncompromising attitude reflects her determination towards the attainment of independence. This determination gets societal rejection, however, her soft kind and compassionate nature nullifies this rejection. Along with this, conglomeration between the personal and professional life is reflected in the creation, Under My Skin. Maintenance of balance adds value to the personality of writers like Doris (Rubenstein, 2014).

Skin is the inner covering of an individual. Skin protects the individual from the outside and foreign materials, which can prove harmful. The proposition “under” can be considered as “part for the whole” and the possessiveness reflected by “my” is the individual as a whole. Collaboration of these parts results in the formation of the individual as a whole. These parts can be considered as two selves, which make up an individual. Naming the autobiography as Under My Skin is Doris’ attempt to invoke her other self in terms of memorizing her childhood in the dense forest of Africa (Martens, 2014). Countering this, skin can be considered as a generalized version of one’s body. In view of this perception, the proposition “my” is contradicted, which nullifies the individuality of Doris Lessing.  

Doris had to adjust with her parents for having a worthwhile existence. However, her caring and compassionate attitude strengthened her relationship with society. The proposition “under” can also reflect a suppression of one of the selves due to the efforts, which Doris had to put for keeping the relationship with her parents alive. On the other hand, poetic approach towards the scenic beauty reflects the freedom and liberty of her selves in terms of adding value to her existence (Georgescu, 2014).

Time is one of the other issues, which grabs the attention of the readers upon the mention of Under My Skin. Reflecting on the lost childhood is Doris’ lamentation towards the lost childhood. Viewing it from the other perspective, this reflection can also be considered as a longing for regaining the lost childhood. This yearning desire is a desire to take a rebirth in terms of shedding the worldly responsibilities. The action of shedding off the responsibilities reflects an immature behavior, which negates the development of Doris. Countering this, shedding off the responsibilities can be considered as Doris’ desire to escape into a utopian world, where she would be able to live amidst the “singing grass” (Fike, 2016). This desire snatches her present societal existence.

Recollection of the lost childhood

Taking a cue from the utopian society, it acts as a distortion for the characteristics of the present connotation of “society”. This is because the society consists of a group of foolish people seeking the meaning of their lives. In this process, they encounter higher stress and feel lethargic towards the performance of basic tasks. Viewing it from the other perspective, childish reflection by Doris might be considered as going down the memory lane for revisiting the dense forest and grasses, which provided her the much-needed companion in the childhood. Here, society attains the connotation of lamentation in terms of getting relief from the worldly responsibilities. Her adjusting relationship with her parents is an obstacle for Doris in terms of reaching to the tender age of childhood (Rubenstein, 2014). This is because, in these thoughts, the biological relationship with the parents is negated. This negation is a rejection towards the universal rule of creation. This rejection on the other hand creates a childhood in the minds of adult Doris, which ventures into the lanes and the dense forest of Africa. This attaches a different kind of connotation to the aspect of creation. Countering this, this creation merges the issue of time and memory for reliving the childhood.

The propositions of the above paragraph bring behavioral theory into the discussion. Doris’ creation of a child venturing into the lanes and the forests reflects the immature stage. This indicates the infancy, where innocence is the main form of expressing the basic desires (Rubenstein, 2014). Countering this, tendency towards getting back the lost childhood is obvious in response to the inability to cope up with the worldly tensions and issues. This inability places Doris within the group of foolish people, who are making desperate attempts to add meaning to their existence. Herein lays the appropriateness of the relation between the self and the society. Within this, rationality is a major component, as rational thinking and consciousness helps in enhancement of the personality.

Viewing it from the other perspective, societal influences are also one of the determinants of personality. Doris’ relationship with her parents includes many adjustments. This adjustment acts as a compulsion for Doris in terms of stabilizing her personal life (Gabaitse & Kumalo, 2014). On the contrary, her societal approach is caring and compassionate, which acts as an opportunity for her regarding asking for help in terms of restoring the peace and stability in the personal life. Her creation of self as a child might be considered as an escape from the taunts and mocking, which is imposed upon her by her parents, relatives, peers and neighbors. These impositions destroy her self- respect, resulting in the creation of such appealing autobiography, Under My Skin. The word “skin” consists of racial connotations, which were evident in the era of 1919-1949. In view of these connotations, it can be said that Doris invokes the child within her to visit the memory lanes and the dense forests in a new form. This newness exempts Doris from letting the influences touch her skin. Rationality in this direction reflects Doris’ maturity in terms of enhancing her identity (Shamshiri, 2014). Countering this, this creation merges the matured as well as immature behavior, which can be considered as a distortion of the self. This distortion affirms the concept of part for the whole. The part is the child and the whole is the adult Doris.

Importance of concentration and effective utilization of the available time

Recollection of the lost childhood becomes more problematic, if Doris’ adjustments are considered. Herein lays the importance of concentration and effective utilization of the available time. Time is basically the present, however, in terms of the recollection it reflects the attempts of the individuals to intervene into their past. This attempt can be considered as an yearning towards an opportunity to modify some mistakes committed in the past. Along with this, it ican also be the attempt to relive the beauty amidst which the individuals have attained their development (Clark, 2017). The same is the case with Doris, who wants an escape into the dense forest of Africa for reliving her childhood. Going into the past is a negation for the present moments, which places Doris in the much-wanted childhood phase. Negation of the present can be considered as going beyond the originality of the society. However, sometimes negation is required in certain cases for reaching an affirmation, which is the ultimate goal, the only focus of the individuals. Doris’ skin, in terms of creating a child clone, becomes more soft, caring and innocent. This connotation reflects the inner desire of Doris to feel her childhood, as she is encountering an ambience, which is full of adjustments.

Longing towards the possession of lost childhood is the story of individuals, going through a phase of struggle, for adding meaning into their existence (Arnold & Meskimmon, 2015). In view of this connotation, Doris becomes one of the ordinary individual, wanting to spend some time with herself. This perception sheds off the tag of a writer; however, it does not mean that her poetic abilities get diminished. Delving deep into the issue, becoming one of the common people, helps Doris to portray the development of an individual, within the ambience of societal influence, in a proper manner. Countering this, becoming one of the common people suppresses her poetic abilities under her outer “skin”.

Critiques would consider this suppression as against the poetic norms; however, these desires are normal in terms of making the people realize her approach towards the offered roles and responsibilities. Herein lays the appropriateness of the lines, “Life is a stage and we are the actors”. Here, there is a compulsion to act out the offered roles and responsibilities in spite of the unwillingness (Rubenstein, 2014). However, psychologists have gifted the people the avenues to escape from these worldly responsibilities through intoxication and imagination. For poets like Doris, both these ways are applicable, as they offer the chance of practical experience. Intoxication takes them into other world, where there is only happiness. On the other hand, intoxication can also take them to the world of depression, which is an appeal towards the extending the helping hand for altering the scenario. Imagination has the power to place the individual in any situation, which is beyond limitations (Kumar, 2013). Doris’ creation of a child makes her imagination into a reverse osmosis. This is because according to the stages of development, the adults are compelled to think about their old age. Doris’ case is a deviation towards this norm, as she yearns for the lost childhood.

In such a situation, it cannot be said that Doris is violating the societal norms. On the contrary, she wants to adopt the concept of rebirth in order to relive her life in a different way. This desire might be psychological, however, the behavioral tendencies associated with the desires makes it natural and obvious in terms of enjoying a worthwhile existence.

The issue of adjustment brings the issue of old age into the discussion.  Adjusting with parents can be considered as the projection of negligent and careless attitude towards her aging parents and their needs. This nullifies her intellectual development (Kumar, 2013). On the other hand, adjustment can also refer to the differentiation of opinions, which are common between a grown up child and the parents. In this, societal influences aggravate the complexities in terms of maintaining the balance in life. In such a situation, thinking of lost childhood is natural in case of Doris, as she wants a free mindset for portraying her poetic creations.

References

Sedikides, C., & Brewer, M. B. (Eds.). (2015). Individual self, relational self, collective self. Psychology Press.

https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=yCRACwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Sedikides,+C.,+%26+Brewer,+M.+B.+(Eds.).+(2015).+Individual+self,+relational+self,+collective+self.+Psychology+Press.&ots=ECrqlYzv9a&sig=ghusrAF2HB2fgDuVXVU2TYy0Oj4#v=onepage&q&f=false

Watkins, S. (2016). Second World Life Writing: Doris Lessing’s Under My Skin. Journal of Southern African Studies, 42(1), 137-148.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057070.2016.1121718

Rubenstein, R. (2014). Conclusion His, Hers, Theirs. In Literary Half-Lives (pp. 195-200). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Martens, L. (2014). The Truth Criteria of Autobiography: Doris Lessing and Telling the Truth. a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, 29(2), 319-340.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08989575.2014.991900

Georgescu, E. A. (2014). Sites of Personal and Cultural Memories in Doris Lessing’s Writings of Africa. Kultura (Skopje), 3(4), 163-172.

https://journals.cultcenter.net/index.php/culture/article/view/87

Fike, M. (2016). CG Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections as a Source for Doris Lessing's Briefing for a Descent into Hell. Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies, 11(1).

https://jungiansociety.org/images/e-journal/Volume-11/JSSS%20Journal%202016.pdf#page=18

Rubenstein, R. (2014). Life in the Interior Zone. In Literary Half-Lives (pp. 131-144). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Rubenstein, R. (2014). Introduction Where the Story Begins. In Literary Half-Lives (pp. 1-12). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Gabaitse, R., & Kumalo, S. (2014). Singing from beyond the grave: Nokuthela Linderely Dube returned to memory. Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae, 40(2), 107-118.

https://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?pid=S1017-4992014000300008&script=sci_arttext&tlng=pt

Shamshiri, H. (2014). Paradise Regained: Spiritual Intuition in Lessing’s. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 724.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/35558179/ijsrp-p34120.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1508828433&Signature=VaeUTwdlue1hPqwVHjZpj5q1%2BtI%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DParadise_Regained_Spiritual_Intuition_in.pdf

Clark, S. J. A. (2017). Rationalism about Autobiography. Philosophy and Literature.

https://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/87599/

Arnold, M., & Meskimmon, M. (2015). Making Oneself at Home: A Dialogue on Women, Culture, Belonging and Denizenship. Third Text, 29(4-5), 256-265.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09528822.2016.1155327

Rubenstein, R. (2014). Of Parent and Child. In Literary Half-Lives(pp. 179-194). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Kumar, T. J. (2013).An Exploration Of Feminine Psyche In The Doris Lessing Canon. New Academia, 61.

https://interactionsforum.com/volume-ii-2013/category/5-new-academia-volume-ii#page=66

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