Stitched identity

Lars Hubrich '98


(drawing by Jesse Mazer '99)

I have a scar on my right cheek. Not a very big or obvious one, but still clearly visible for everyone who takes a closer look. I don't really take notice of it any more, and yet, sometimes people ask me about it. It always takes me some time to understand what they are pointing at, but once the scar reenters my consciuosness, the story behind it appears before my eyes.

In Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl, we are confronted with a female monster, stitched together from more than a dozen persons' bodies. The individual parts are held together by rough stitches and thick arches of scar tissue, forming a unified identity that does not deny its origins.

We get to know the individual parts' history that assembles into a complete picture of a stitched personality. At the same time, we get the story of a long struggle, of an emancipation that ends not in a mourning about the lost battles but in new strength, as the monster explains:

Scar tissue does more than flaunt its strength by chronicling the assaults it has withstood. Scar tissue is new growth. And it is tougher than skin innocent of the blade.

In fact, the scars become a new, living organ, opening up a new sensorium that goes straight into the chest of the monster. The scars are hot, responding to other people's input. And they have the ability to share their experience, to inscribe themselves one someone else's skin.

The scars hold together the individual parts, each one having its own history, and gain their strength from the parts' experiences. But they do not point back, they rather are signs of an active, progressive look into a future that has learned from history.

I have a navel like any other person. Does Shelley's monster have one? Of course, it has to. Not that it gets mentioned, though, as far as I have read Patchwork Girl.. It would be rather odd for a monster like the one in the story to have a navel. Its origins lie somewhere else, not at one single point.

And then we realize what those scars really are: birthmarks. Birthmarks of a new history, arisen from endless struggles. Donna Haraway would smile.