Culture and geography have a profound affect on our character. Though we may not notice it, they affect the way that we view ourselves in relation to others around us. A more obvious result of this influence is exposed through the decisions that we make in everyday live, such as what clothes to wear, what to eat, and how to greet someone on the street. We do not have to think about these decisions; they come to us naturally, and are a result of our environment of culture and geography shaping us. This is evident in the character of Kirsten. How has the surrounding culture and geography shaped and molded her character? What is the result of this sculpting? The story, which uses and theme of basic necessities, and portrays the character as taking for granted the environment that she lives in, shows how the surrounding culture and geography that Kirsten has grown up in has shaped her character.
The character of Kirsten has been greatly affected by the mountainous and cold climate that she has grown up in and lives in. She makes her home in the California. Having lived there all of her life, she has acquired basic knowledge and skills necessary for living in a cold, mountainous environment. The character has a lot of warm clothes in her wardrobe, which are needed for skiing, and other mountainous outdoor activities. She knows how to survive in the cold in case she gets lost, a method which, according to her, is one of those things you get taught in kindergarten (Benites 2). This method, which is called hug-a-tree, is a very effective way of staying safe, warm, and in the same place so that a search party can find you. These wilderness survival techniques allow Kirsten to survive in her environment. Because she grew up in an mountainous and cold environment, Kirsten was also taught how to ski. Her knowledge and ability at skiing is related through the details that her character feels and sees as she skis. She notes the texture of the snow as she skis, saying that it is a little soft, but has a sugary texture that is fun to ski on. This kind of imagery shows her familiarity with a region that has many different types of snow, not just one type everywhere. If we examine this closely, her familiarity with the proper terms for skiing are also evident. When she goes skiing in the story, she uses a pair of demo skis, which are a set of skis that are rented out to try, and perhaps purchase. It is like test driving the skis. Someone who has not gone skiing before would not be familiar with these terms, and would not know the other skills that the character has made use of in her environment. Kirsten has learned survival skills, how to ski, and how to stay warm in her environment, and this is how she has been affected by her geography.
Because Kirsten has learned these skills, and has grown up using them in the geography of California, she takes them for granted. She is befuddled when other people who do not have knowledge of her environment, as for her it is common knowledge. When she picks up her friend from the airport, she uncomfortable and embarrassed with how amazed her friend is at seeing all of the mountains around them and the prospect of actually skiing on them. Kirsten is uncomfortable, because to her there is no other way of life. To have someone else find it so strange is not an idea that the character has had to deal with before, because for her, her environment is natural. When the characters friend is unable to ski, the character is rather frustrated at herself and her friend. This is saying that something such as skiing that comes so naturally to Kirsten should come naturally to others. But it doesnt, and Kirsten is confused as to why her friend does not naturally have this knowledge or survival ability. However, the reverse is also true. At the end of the story, Kirsten and her friend are watching a Volkswagen commercial, in which there are fireflies flying around at night. The character sees these, and says that it would be very cool to see fireflies. Her friend finds it very strange that Kirsten thinks so highly of fireflies, because to her friend they are commonplace. This point is driven home by the last statement of the story. When Kirsten says that she thinks fireflies look really cool, her friend replies, Whats so cool...its just a little glowing bug for crying out loud (Benites 3). It is because of where Kirsten lives, as well as where her friend lives, that they take their surroundings for granted, and assume that everyone lives in a similar place to their own.
While Kirsten takes for granted her environment, she also takes for granted the culture that she has been raised in; the results of this are seen in the character through her mannerisms and actions. The character of Kirsten is one who has grown up in a culture that has had to learn to adopt to the cold. As stated earlier, she has survival skills necessary for the cold environment that she lives in. Hug-a-tree is a skill that her culture has decided should be taught to kindergarten children. This skill will help to insure their survival in a harsh environment, and is a unique part of the culture in her region. They have also taught their children to ski, an activity that her culture has made commonplace. We can see that the culture of where Kirsten has grown up is tightly linked with the environment of the cold mountains. This is why they teach the members of her culture the skills necessary for survival in the mountains and cold environment. And it is how Kirstens character has been shaped from the skills she has been taught. Thus, as she takes her environment for granted, she also does the same of her culture.
In the end, the culture and environment that have surrounded Kirsten as she has grown have affected her character, making her a person who is acclimated to cold, mountainous areas. She has pulled her culture from the skills she has been taught by the other residents of her area, and been shaped by the environment that she lives in into who she is and how she thinks of and sees the world.
Benites, Kirsten. Untitled. Personal Narrative for English 101. University of Puget Sound. March, 2000.