Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Pollock and Van Reken write:

TCKs usually develop some degree of cultural adaptability as a primary tool for surviving the frequent change of cultures.  Over and over, TCKs use the term chameleon to describe how, after spending a little time observing what is going on, they can easily switch language, style of relating, appearance and cultural practices to take on the characteristics needed to blend better into the current scene (100).

This is a good thing, but "TCKs may never develop true cultural balance anywhere" (Pollock and Van Reken 101).

What if the issue of not being able to find "cultural balance"  reflects a deeper problem in terms of self-identity, perhaps even a conviction that there is no authentic self, but only the performed surface?  What if the camouflage is so good, the lizard really feels like s/he has disappeared?

Catton's The Rehearsal features characters who are actors (the drama college students), and characters who are performers (the saxophone teacher's students). These young people are all good chameleons.  However, the novel also features mothers who should be individuals but are instead positioned as though they are all different performances by one very talented actor.  It also involves saxophone students performing conversations they've had with other people for their teacher to listen to, and actors performing versions of their father or parents.  Perhaps everyone is performing in this novel .

Everyone is in "rehearsal for everything that comes after" (236): they are not living really, they are just practising.  In order to be good chameleons and blend in everyone steals parts of other people's stories to use as their own ("you lied about your favorite thing.  You stole it from someone else and used it as your own" 277). 

Not having an authentic self is a strange kind of relief.  Catton writes "We are speaking someone else's lines.  It's a comfort" (191).

In more explicitly TCK works like Sarah Bird's The Yokota Officer's Club or Ann-Marie MacDonald's The Way the Crow Flies (both about military brats), much is made of the opportunity a TCK has on arrival in a new place to utterly reinvent themselves.  This is part of being a chameleon too.

But in Catton continual reinvention is exaggerated, it becomes extreme.  Everything is performance, and there is no real "self."  In that respect her novel examines a TCK anxiety: what if there is nothing but performance?

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