Saturday, November 5, 2011

Peter Stillman's Identity Do-Over

During his talk with the elder Peter Stillman, Quinn is told about how Humpty Dumpty represents human aspirations.  Stillman explains to him, saying, “We exist, but we have not yet achieved the form that is our destiny.  We are pure potential, an example of the not yet arrived.”  Reflecting on this remark, the younger Peter Stillman possesses a deeper awareness of his own potential than that of most people.
At first glance, one may assume that the younger Peter Stillman is simply cracked in the head.  His speech is irregular, jumping from topic to topic.  He constantly asks and answers his own questions while making what others might consider inappropriate remarks.  It would seem that his dialogue makes no sense, but when further inspected one finds that he makes interesting insights on his identity and potential.  When Quinn meets him to discuss his case, Peter constantly repeated, “I am Peter Stillman.  That is not my real name.”  This may sound crazy, to claim you are not who you are.  But in a way, he is correct.  His name is indeed Peter Stillman, but it is also the name of his father.  The name given to him by his abusive father is what others identify him with, but he himself wants nothing to do with it.  For the idea of being Peter Stillman Jr. would force him to relive the mistreatment of his father.  He understands that even though this is the name given to him, he does not want to be associated with the memories that go with the name.  By refusing the acknowledge it, Peter makes the argument that one can change who they are into what they want to be.
While Peter is probably not the only person to want to change themselves, he expresses a strong desire to recreate his entire identity.  He demonstrates this extreme in his remark, “Peter was a baby.  They had to teach him everything.  How to walk, you know.  How to eat.  How to make caca and pipi in the toilet.  That wasn’t bad.  Even when I bit them, they didn’t do the boom, boom, boom.  Later, I even stopped tearing of my clothes.”  Peter was not literally a baby, but his mentality reflected that of a newborn.  His want to discard the identity his father gave him meant he would literally start living all over from the beginning.  If there ever was the possibility of do-overs, Peter ultimately wanted to redo his entire existence up until present.  His discontent with who he was shows his deep need to change his current destiny. 
            In a way, the younger Peter Stillman accurately resembles the living embodiment of Humpty Dumpty.  Facing an identity crisis and having given up on his father’s name, Peter is like the cracked and broken Humpty Dumpty.  All the pieces of who he is and who he wants to be are scattered.  In order to reach his full potential, he has to be put back together like pieces of a puzzle.  Only then will he be whole.  Unfortunately, the process is not simple because there is so much ambiguity involved in striving to be more than the present state.  Peter is fully aware of this problem.  He tells Quinn, “For now, I am Peter Stillman.  That is not my real name.  I cannot say who I will be tomorrow.  Each day is new, and each day I am born again.  I see hope everywhere, even in the dark, and when I die I will perhaps become God.”  Peter understands the difficulties of reaching his full potential, but he is not without hope.  In fact, based on his remark, he is quite optimistic to the possibility that maybe even one day his full potential may reach that of being a deity.
            From reading the conversation between Quinn and Peter, it is notable the similarity between the two men.  One man, Quinn, faces identity crisis and takes on the role of being someone else.  The other, Peter, appears to seek the help of the former, but in reality he seems to understand his identity, or rather his potential identity, better.


  1. You started off your prompt very strong and made clear point of what you were going to be arguing. The 3 quotes you choose to use I feel like tied into each other very well without going away from your main point. I personally would have liked to seen a little bit more with the 3rd paragraph.I think this would be a good piece to use for revisions because I can see you being able to elaborate in more detail and come across some strong points and arguments

  2. This is a little hard to follow.

    1st paragraph: Peter the younger is unusually aware of his own potential.

    2nd paragraph: Peter both affirms and denies his own identity as his father's son. His resistance implies the capacity to change. I liked this, although it seemed to me like focusing simply on this moment would have been a fine approach for the whole essay - this is more complicated than maybe you give it credit for.

    the 3rd paragraph bothers me. You assert that his recitation of his ugly history means that he wants and needs to change, and believes in change (my words - not exactly the same as yours). I don't see it. Can't the recitation of an ugly history just be an ugly history? Can't we simply *despair* when talking about the past? I'm not saying that you're wrong (this is interesting, actually) - but you're not actually making this argument.

    Peter as Humpty Dumpty is fine, and not wrong. For my part, I'm more interested in the previous paragraphs - maybe because I'm not sure why it *matters* that we can see Peter as Humpty Dumpty. Note that creating a new identity is not the same as putting together an eggshell - which seems more like an attempt to return to the old than to create the new, at least to me.

    Overall: this is good material, a sequence of strong, imaginative statements about who Peter Stillman is. The biggest problem that I see is that really you're dealing with a series of related but distinct ideas - without really acknowledging that they are distinct. This isn't *one* argument, but a sequence, without a ton of support (the 2nd paragraph, again, being to me the weirdest, most imaginative argument and the best initial support for it.