How does Robert Dessaix construct himself in a Mother’s Disgrace

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In the past, there was a clear distinction between an autobiography and fiction. An autobiography was seen as an article that spoke of ‘truth’, where pieces of information could be weighed up against the facts to verify their truthfulness. A fiction on the other hand, was completely made up; the information in the article was of the imagination of the author. Over time, the lines of separation between an autobiography and a fiction have been blurred. People have begun to realise that the ‘I’ of an autobiography is also a construction of the author; there is not a ‘black and white’ view of the person. The author’s view of him/herself may differ from the way another person views them; therefore, the construction of themselves in an autobiography could also be regarded as a fictional character.

Robert Dessaix constructs himself as someone who is independent, different, and also honest. He constructs himself as an independent person through the events in his life, particularly his time in Russia. The character of Robert Dessaix is also constructed as a person ‘out of the norm’, one who is different. He is different because he is gay; he tells us that he is homosexual, which is obviously different to the majority of the male population. The character of Robert Dessaix is also different because he is not fond of the teachings of the western world. One other reason he is different is because he feels that he is an intellectual. Robert Dessaix also constructs himself to be someone who is honest and truthful. The reader is lead to think that he is telling the truth and reporting the ‘full story’.

Robert Dessaix constructs his image of independence through his time spent in Russia. He spent his university years studying at the Moscow University, living by himself in the university dormitories. His time in Russia was not easy though. Robert Dessaix “got off to a bad start”, when he arrived in Russia in summer clothing, having his suitcase of winter clothing stolen. Things somewhat took a turn for the worse when he was told that he could not undertake the Soviet literature course at the university, which the sole purpose of him going to Russia. Settling into the Russian culture also caused some trouble for him, sometimes resulting in cultural clashes. This sometimes made him feel “as if there was a war going on”. However, he proves his independence and competency by surviving Russia, and growing from his experiences there.

The character of Robert Dessaix is also constructed to be someone ‘different’, someone who is ‘out of the norm’. Robert Dessaix is gay, which he loudly exposes in his autobiography, he has relatively different beliefs to those of the western world, and he also believes he is an intellectual.

One of the reasons Robert Dessaix is different is because he is homosexual. A minority of the population is homosexual; therefore this makes him ‘different’. His lifestyle is different to most people. He, in the past, would be singled out because he was different, due to his homosexual behaviours.

* Different beliefs – against capitalism, this he may have learnt from his time in Russia.

* Intellectual – In his childhood, he was interested in exploring knowledge instead of sport, or other ‘childish activities’. He loved indulging in deep conversations about concepts and ideas, and the way he tells his story just gives a feeling of intellectuality.

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