Literature Essay – I am not Esther. I am not Esther by Fleur Beale is a novel about a young New Zealand girl, Kirby Greenland, whose mother leaves her and sends her to live with her distant, religion-driven family, of whom she barely knows. Understanding the idea of identity is important to fully connect with the novel. In this essay I will be discussing the idea of Kirby’s identity as it changes and develops throughout the novel. Before Kirby was left by her mother and sent to live with her extremely religious family, she was very fun-loving, normal, responsible and sure of her identity.
Kirby was the “one who had to organise the running of” their “flat, who had to write out the cheques for the bills, make sure she,” (her Mother), “didn’t spend all the money before the next payday, get the washing done, drag her,” (her Mother), “off to buy groceries. ” Kirby was extremely responsible; she was like the adult of the house. Kirby’s neighbour Louisa taught her “how to budget and how to shop for groceries” and all that kind of stuff her Mother “wasn’t interested in. Kirby and her best friend, Gemma, would “hit town” and go shopping for the day, or just stay home and watch movies “for the ninth time. ” Kirby and her mother, Ellen, would have barbecues that end “with twenty of the neighbours” in the “back garden. ” Kirby was very close with her mother, Ellen. They had a lot of fun together, such as the time they dyed their hair “green and red and silver” for Christmas. Kirby and Ellen, along with Gemma, went looking “all over Auckland looking for just the right Christmas decorations” together.
Kirby was definitely normal in the sense of being fun and sure of her identity and herself generally, but she was responsible to the point where it was as though she was the adult of the house. When Kirby was first sent to live with the Pilgrim family, she found it very hard to adjust to their religious way of life. Kirby was made to change her clothes from her “t-shirt and shorts” to a “white blouse and a long blue skirt,” which she thought were “dreary,” but her Aunt Naomi called them “modest. ” Kirby was forced to change her way of speaking.
Slang words like can’t or shouldn’t were not allowed, instead can not and should not had to be said. The next thing Kirby was required to change was her name. Kirby Greenland was no longer; instead she was given the “Biblical name,” Esther. Uncle Caleb and Aunt Naomi made Kirby wear her hair in a plait/braid, picked her subjects at school and didn’t have any mirrors in their house. Although there was one positive thing that came out of living with the Pilgrims, and that was that Kirby got to experience a family where she could be a child, instead of acting like the adult the whole time.
All of this was done to change Kirby from her normal, fun-loving self, into a religious, godly mannered girl, Esther. Kirby was very affected by her identity struggle in terms of whether she is Kirby or Esther, whether she will still be the adult of the house when she gets reunited with her mother and if she will ever be able to go back to how things were in the beginning. When Kirby got out of the “Religious sect”, she was not sure if that was the right thing to do or not. Kirby felt that now that she did not have to be Esther, she wanted to be.
She had the clothing she was forced to wear, “in her hands” while deciding what to do with them. Kirby “decided to keep them” so if ever she was to have children, she could “show them the clothes” from the terrible time she was living within a “Religious sect” as Esther Pilgrim. When Kirby finally found out her mother was “in a psychiatric ward” and was “depressed,” Kirby could not understand how depression could drive her mother to abandon her. About three months after finding her mother, Ellen moved into a flat.
Kirby would go stay for the weekend, but found it strange how her mother “cooked and did the washing and looked after” both of them, instead of how it was in the beginning where Kirby ran the house. In this essay, I have discussed how Kirby’s identity has developed and changed from when she was living happily with her mother, to when she was sent to live with the Pilgrim family and they tried to change her into Esther Pilgrim, a godly mannered girl. Then finding out where her mother was, which was “in a psychiatric ward” because she was “depressed. ” Kirby experienced a very confusing identity crisis.