Identity And Identity In The Whore's Child By Richard Russo

1531 Words7 Pages
The Whore’s Child is a famous short story by Richard Russo. The story follows the life of a nun, Sister Ursula, as she joins a college fiction writing course and begins writing her life story. As she writes, with the help of her professor and the feedback from her class, she discovers more about herself and the truth about her life. A key element of this story is the depth to which the characters are explored, given the limited amount of time for characterization. A primary way to explore this characterization is through the works of prominent identity theorists – one of which being Canary et al. This theory talks about some of the ways that identity is developed, through concepts such as social cognition, schema, and the four cognitive…show more content…
Another key aspect of Canary’s theory is that of the four cognitive processes – stereotypes, attributions, person perception, and interpersonal goals. According to Canary, stereotypes are “when categories are about people and are based on their group membership” (Canary 114). In Russo’s story, Sister Ursula writes about how, as a child, “she understood that her mother’s being a prostitute made her ‘the whore’s child,’ that her mother’s wickedness diminished her father’s value” (8). This excerpt from Sister Ursula’s story establishes how the negative stereotypes around her mother’s lifestyle impacted her childhood. Even today, prostitution is considered dishonorable in society, especially within religious circles, and thus, Sister Ursula’s mother’s stigma was attached to her as a child, which caused her to be inherently disliked in the nun community. Again, this could be a contributing factor to Sister Ursula’s cold and steadfast demeanor, as she had to grow up protecting herself from the judgmental gazes of her superiors and peers. Attributions are the next facet of the four cognitive processes that can be seen in The Whore’s Child. They are defined as “assessments of the cause of an action or behavior,” (Canary 111) and can be both internal and external. Internal meaning that the behavior is attributed to qualities such as

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