Hiding Behind a Mask
There are people who like to hide behind a shadow and not show what really is in front of them. They do not like to show their true colors, they act like something that they are not. There are many judgmental people in the world, which cause people to become extremely self-conscious. I know many people who try to act like something they are not. Personally I try not too but I can admit sometimes I have to. A few of the authors that we have read about this semester portray this persona that I am talking about. They try to hide the person they really are. For instance, Gerald Graff, and Tobias Wolff wrote about how they tried to be something they were not. How on the inside they were one person but on the outside they were completely fake and different just to impress others and fit in with their group.
Tobias Wolff wrote his memoir called This Boys Life. As a little kid he had trouble fitting in. His family did not a have a sturdy foundation so that definitely had an affect on the way he acted and behaved. Tobias was always defiant; he knew he could easily take advantage of his mother. It was like stealing candy from a baby. For instance when they go to leave Seattle he tries to bring his rifle, and his mother demands that he not. She says there is not enough room for it anyway. “And before she could stop me I had unscrewed the locking bolt and pulled the rifle apart….. and slid the two halves of the rifle in between the clothes” (Wolff, 32). Of course Wolff being the character he is, he does not listen to his mother and does the exact opposite of what she says. Wolff is a good kid on the inside, one who listens to what people say but he has gotten so used to trying to put on an act and he knows how to get what he wants. He takes advantage of his mother. He hides the good kid that he is on the inside and portrays the disobedient son he can be. Another example of Wolff trying to show off and be something that he is not was when he started a rumble with Arthur. Arthur was always bullied throughout school and Wolff wanted to show he was “cool” so he joined in and bullied Arthur. “We went on like this, and then I called him a sissy” (Wolff, 109). Arthur and Wolf had been going back and forth but the minute he used the sissy line, all hell broke loose. They touched gloves and the match began. Wolff had to show that he was tough so he started a fight with Arthur to fit in. Wolff wanted to be accepted by his peers. Throughout the book, Wolff tries to show and act like somebody that he is not. It is almost like he has a mask on, covering the real Tobias Wolff.
Everyone around gives into peer pressure and lets what other people think affect and bother them. I can give many examples in my personal life where I have done so. It is hard to brush things off and act like what people say do not take a toll on you. I see this a lot in middle school kids. My two younger brothers, Adam, and Noah are in middle school. The youngest, Noah, has changed the way he dresses and acts around people. Everyday he wears basketball shorts way below the knees, a backwards hat, and mid calf socks. The typical middle school look. Noah has also changed the way he talks and acts around people, he cannot act like a baby anymore so he tries to yell and act tough in front of others. He wants to be socially accepted and in order to do so he needs to act differently than he would around my family and me. Adam on the other hand, I have seen Jurassic changes in his past few years. Adam has been in the principal’s office multiple times, his grades are slipping, and the way he dresses has changed. He went from wearing GAP, to Tee shirts and shorts, even in the middle of dead winter! Who does that? Adam has always been a straight A student, the Einstein of the family. It is not considered “cool” if you get good grades, so he has gone from and A student to a C student. There have been many instances where he has gotten in trouble for starting fights. Adam, just like Wolff, wants to be socially accepted, so what does he do? He starts a fight. Adam and Wolff both want to show there superiority and toughness to fit in, so they decide to start fights whether they will win or not. In both instances the fight was close, they held up their own weight, but if it came down to a fight judge and they compared score cards; Adam and Wolff would have both have been considered losers in their individual matches. Fist fights are never the answer but in your teenage years they always seem to be a way of showing how tough and better you are than another. Silly, I know.
We read Hidden Intellectualism by Gerald Graff. Graff was in similar shoes that Wolf was. He tried to hide and be something he was not. Graff never wanted to be referred to as the bookworm, hence the title Hidden Intellectualism. He always was intelligent but he was forced to hide it if he wanted to have some sort of a social life. In his culture its almost frowned upon to be smart and use your brain. The kids who are bookworms are considered “losers”. “For girls, being articulate and brainy about schoolwork was a sign of being conceited or ‘stuck up,’ whereas for boys it marked one as a sissy” (Graff, 215). No boy wants to be called a “sissy”. If you are referred to as a “sissy”, you are headed down a long path. The way Graff escaped this was by hiding his intellectualism. Graff needed a group of friends a group that would accept him, so how could he be smart and accepted at the same time? “On the other hand, I was desperate for the approval of the hoods, whom I encountered daily on the playing field and in the neighborhood, and for the purpose it was not at all good to be book smart” (Graff, 216). Graff had to keep his smarts away from his friends. He could not be known as the smart one, at least not if he wanted to maintain friends with them. Graff, fortunately, was able to find a medium between the two. He found a way to be intellectual but also social, sports. “Whereas schoolwork isolated you from others, the pennant race or Ted William’s .400 batting average was something you could talk about with people you had previously never met” (Graff, 220). Graff found a way to learn and get his intellectualism through sports. He would sit and read Sports Illustrated all the time. It was a win – win situation. He could read about sports and talk about them with his peers and feel accepted but he could also get the intellectual part without having to worry about what others think because he was reading about sports which is socially accepted.
The two authors both have their own personal stories about hiding behind a mask and not unveiling who they really are. They were more about fitting in and making friends than showing their true talents. Both Wolff and Graff would rather do things to impress than to do the right thing. Wolff was all about fitting in so he did whatever he had to too do so. Whether that be bullying someone or stealing gasoline from his friends dad’s farm. I feel like he was insecure inside and was fighting it from a really young age. Graff was the same kind of person, he also wanted to fit in. He did not want to be known as a “sissy” or a “loser”. In order to avoid those harsh names he had to hide his intellectualism and act like he was not a smart guy. His “hood” friends would not accept him if they knew about his brainpower. He put on an act and kept it from his group. Graff was the only one who managed to do this successfully. Wolf and Graff were put in tough situations that they had to deal with. As a reader I concluded that Wolff and Graff both struggled to fit in and the easiest way to deal with that was too try to impress others by doing things they would not normally do. Both authors struggled to find their own identity.
Graff, Gerald. Clueless in Academic: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind. New Haven: Yale U.P., 2003. Print.
Wolff, Tobias. This Boy’s Life: A Memoir. Broadway: Grove, 1989. Print.