Essay on Jennifer Egan’s Look At Me: The Two Charlottes

1639 Words 7 Pages
The industrial revolution rapidly altered the rate of human achievement. Steam trains were first used in the 1820’s and remained the primary mode of modern transport for the next one hundred years. The Wright Brothers arrived at human flight in 1903, and space flight was accomplished only 60 years later. The exponential curve grew even steeper with the technological revolution of the 20th Century; new technologies rendered obsolete as soon as they are taken off the assembly line (a stubborn remnant of the industrial era). Despite these advances, there was a terse atmosphere of stagnation as America drifted into the 21st century. Jennifer Egan’s Look At Me explores this malaise. By examining the transience of personal identity in an …show more content…
Charlotte Swenson’s life, however, was built upon the foundation of cool, a jet setting, and beautiful-people lifestyle in the planet’s chief exporter of culture, New York City. As a young woman she realized that she too did not belong in Rockford. The party in the mirrored room that Swenson aspires to join is the embodiment of the modern American dream of fame, but after a career that peaked early, she is quick to label herself within the confines of catalog model. After the accident Charlotte Swenson is freed from these aspirations. She is no longer needed as a professional beauty, and is separated from her identity through that violent act. Swenson refers to these remnants of severances to former identity as “shadow faces,” and has no problem with reinvention because she had never been too attached to any of her former selves. A crucial element of the shadow self is a violent past, and perhaps it was the violence of the car crash that fractured her identity. Or maybe the romantic trysts of her younger years, and adult years before the accident, have led to so many scattered identities that this most recent is just one in a long line.

Both Charlottes are bound together, not only through Rockford, IL, but through two very different men, and at quite different times. Both men are

Related Documents