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on the black hill family and identity

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Every single person is unique, each a separate identity. Naturally, who we are and how we live our lives is shaped by various forces as we develop and progress through our lives. One of the most fundamental of these shaping forces is clearly our family; be it biological or social, family plays a major role in setting the foundations for one's identity. Bruce Chatwin clearly displays his belief of this notion in his novel On the Black Hill, a family saga which explores such connection between family and identity. The story of On the Black Hill is the story of its principal characters and their families as they move through several generations, allowing the reader to observe the effect of family dynamics on the characters' developments. The principal family is On the Black Hill is palpably the Joneses, and Chatwin describes them in great detail. The twins, Lewis and Benjamin Jones, are the main characters of the story and are obvious examples of characters shaped by family dynamics. Lewis "was the stronger twin, and the firstborn". His role had already been determined when he emerged into the world as the first son; he is the strong masculine twin, the protector of Benjamin. ...read more.


Lewis is identified by his love of aviation and longing for adventure, but he is tied down by family obligations. He is aware that his life would be different if not for the inescapable bond binding him to Benjamin, stating "Sometimes, I lie awake and wonder what'd happen if him weren't there...Then I'd have had my own life, like? Had kids?" Ironically, it is his family that sets him 'free' in the end and satisfies his desire for an heir and an adventure. This comes in the form of Kevin Redpath, the twins' long lost nephew, who comes back to inherit the farm and also give Lewis an opportunity to do what he had always desired, to fly an aeroplane. These "ten magnificent minutes" completes the missing part of Lewis' identity, and "all the frustrations of his cramped and frugal life now counted for nothing". No other family is described in such detail as the Joneses, but their neighbours, the Watkinses from 'The Rock' also shows how a family-style group affects the identities of the individuals in the family. The Watkins family is a rather complicated family, for Tom and Aggie Watkins can not have kids of their own and hence resort to adoption. ...read more.


On the other hand, his sister Nancy Bickerton shows traits of Mrs. Bickertons; like the way her mother seeks companionship in Mary, Nancy is bored by the gentry and finds great pleasure in the twins' visits. Even the way she offers tea to the twin reflects her mother's; "China or Indian?" Nancy is hence another example of an identity shaped by her parent and upbringing. Thus the identity-shaping forces of family are quite evident in the families of On the Black Hill. These are clearly portrayed through the characters of the Joneses twins Lewis and Benjamin, whose identities and lives are clearly shaped by their order of birth, their roles in the farm and the house, the traits they inherit from their parents, their upbringing, as well as their bond to each other. Their way of living even after the death of Amos and Mary reveal how the impact of these family dynamics can last forever, also portrayed through the way Meg or Nancy each inherit their parents' traits and behaviours. On the other hand, these impacts can also have an opposite effect, as shown by Lizzie and Sarah in the way they try to fight against the Watkinses' family pattern of poverty-stricken lives by leaving The Rock. Through On the Black Hill, Chatwin patently demonstrates the relationship between one's identity and family, reinforcing the notion that our families make us who we are today. ...read more.

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