Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Identity Issues

By Jeffrey S. Kaplan | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 2
Identity through Body Image: Chris Crutcher's Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Patricia L. Danieland Vicki J. McEntire


INTRODUCTION

In our society, parents are credited with wanting their children to have better lives than they had. This is especially seen during adolescence, when most of today's adolescents are not having to work to contribute to the family's income. Many adolescents live in abundance: nice homes, designer clothes, cars, lots of friends, and well-stocked pantries and refrigerators. However, parents, teachers, businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, politicians, the military, advertisers, and the media contribute to sending a very unhealthy message to our adolescents: You must be thin to be loved, accepted, and successful. Furthermore, you must be free of any physical disfigurement in order to be considered for love, acceptance, and success. Your chances for success are higher if you are white, and your odds increase tremendously if you are male. Consequently, white males who were not born with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, or other impairments, and who are not overweight have extremely high chances of being successful. White females who were born healthy and who are thin and attractive can also be successful.

What is the definition of "thin" or "attractive"? It is elusive, a moving target. The pictures of models in magazines portray extremely thin young people. What are the chances of average adolescents seeing someone who looks like themselves in one of these magazines? The message is clear when adolescents do not see themselves reflected in magazines, movies, and billboards: They are not good enough. So, they try to alter

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