The Struggle of Self-Identity through Laughter

A struggle to determine one’s self identity is often a long, twisted path of uncertainty and frustration guided by miniscule events. These events have the power to transform self-awareness and enable oneself to discover one’s true personal identity. This is the case for Kristen J. Klever which she demonstrates in her short story "Laugh-In," a story that follows her own personal path of identification. Kristen illustrates that life is delicately structured architecture built upon intra-personal relationships. Through her relationship with Brandon, a difficult child at best, she exploits her past and present cultural experiences, which have shaped and identified her inter-personal identity. By breaking through Brandon’s symbolic walls of seclusion Kristen discovers that her inner faith, humor, and perseverance can carve pathways for deeper relationships with others and herself.

Kristen’s initial observations and interactions with Brandon tested the physical boundaries of her inner faith leading her to the realization that she has solid control of the framework of life. Kristen recalls the moment with the passage "Brandon arrived hidden behind sunglasses and the hood of a tattered and torn sweatshirt. When Brandon’s mom tried to hug him he pushed her away, yelling an obscenity" (1), his response initiated an internal drive for Kristen’s inner faith to perform. She could see that Brandon created a world of isolation and seclusion protected by self-constructed walls of asocial behavior. From that moment on, Brandon’s resistance to cooperate in camp activities guided Kristen's every thought, movement, and expression. Brandon’s desolate world of constraints and boundaries became a "project" she would complete. Kristen dove headfirst into Brandon’s wall, "I sat down next to Brandon and started throwing sticks in the same direction he was. I told him that if I could throw a stick farther than he could, he had to bring his lunch over to a group of boys who he had met earlier" (2), with this passage she slowly began the process of stripping away Brandon’s façade of seclusion. Kristen's creative methods of encouraging Brandon to participate, guided by her inner faith, slowly opened a pathway to the fortress which encircled Brandon. The drive of her internal faith gave her an instinct of confidence, not only in the framework of her life, but allowed the gate to swing open in Brandon’s secluded mansion. Although Brandon’s pathway was obstructed by walls and rocks of uncertainties, Kristen’s inner faith was deep rooted and became a hammer crushing the walls and smashing the rocks giving the deeply buried Brandon a chance to shine through.

The "Brandon Project" could not be constructed by inner-faith alone. Kristen instinctively knew that bigger guns would be necessary to conquer this long-standing fortress. Brandon’s rough, thick, flawed, and jagged exterior required the tool of laughter and she knew that once he laughed his wall of seclusion would come tumbling down. On the hottest day of the summer, fate gave Kristen the opportunity to reach Brandon. To her misfortune, or so she thought, she drew the shortest straw among the camp counselors and was destined to begin her dirty work of demolishing Brandon’s wall of seclusion. Kristen used her magical device of humor on the "devil child" initiating only a small smirk out of Brandon’s rough exterior. She made a deal with Brandon that she would take him to the coldest place in camp to eat popsicles if he found any of her jokes "genuinely funny." By using her humor to break Brandon’s iron clad gate she successfully reached this child when everyone else had failed, "Brandon removed his hood and took off his sweatshirt" (3), thus allowing her inner character to warm his soul with beauty of life. Kristen's misfortune of drawing the shortest straw enabled her to experience self-discovery. The turning point unleashed Kristen’s inner character to shine and regain self-worth. Brandon’s stubborn affect became a device, which strategically pressured Kristen to perform and channel her self-identity, which in the end demolished Brandon’s fortress of seclusion.

Kristen’s humor not only became a defining characteristic of her self identity but her inner perseverance became a marked trait outlined by Brandon’s barricade of isolation. The realization of her determination was one of Kristen's biggest achievements on the pathway to self-discovery. This was clearly evident with her statement "I got really frustrated with the thought of my failed plan" (3), as she began to trip and stumble on the jagged edges of his established fortress which tested her stamina. Kristen had a persevering thread which wove her inner identity and gave her inner strength to survive. This thread of endurance became a weapon to destroy Brandon’s wall. For example, the first day she could have yelled at Brandon for throwing sticks at unsuspecting campers, but instead she stuck with him and used the stick throwing as a way to make a connection. The subconscious connection she made with Brandon allowed her to delve into a new level of self. Her pride, faith and perseverance became underlining factors of her self-identity. Brandon’s difficult attitude became a device in which Kristen could discover her true cultural self-identity.

Through her relationship with Brandon, Kristen exploits her cultural experiences which have shaped and identified her inter-personal identity. Brandon becomes the struggle, the long twisted path of uncertainty and frustration that illuminates Kristen's self-awareness. By breaking through Brandon’s symbolic walls of seclusion Kristen battles an uphill climb resulting in self-discovery. Her journey marks a path in which she is able to discover all of her inner riches and capabilities. By opening the door to Brandon’s rough, enclosed architecture Kristen had the opportunity to understand the design of her identity and how it was formed, and in the end allowed it her to become a stronger individual.


Works Cited

Klever, Kristen. "Laugh-In." Assignment 5, English 101D. University of Puget Sound. April 3, 2000.