Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
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Rasta Rebel: The Life and Influence of Bob Marley

Andrea Levy: Societal Influence on an Individual’s Identity

Andrea  Levy
Beginning at a young age, human beings feel the need to define themselves as individuals according to their own point of view. Through the process of human growth and development, this innate knowledge of identity becomes threatened by societal forces and causes individuals to rethink who they are, where they come from, and how they define themselves. Born in London to Jamaican immigrant parents, Andrea Levy struggled as a child to balance being both black and British. “This experience has given her an unusual perspective on the country of her birth – neither feeling totally part of the society nor a total outsider” (Andrea Levy). Through her writing Levy attempts to inform the reader of the “general situation facing all children of post colonial immigrants across the West” (Andrea Levy). The characters in Levy’s novels struggle to establish themselves as individuals in their own society.

Much like the characters in Levy’s novels, reggae singer Bob Marley struggled to balance two racial backgrounds, black and white. Growing up in the rural parish of St. Ann, surrounded by only his family, Marley didn’t see himself as being different. When his mother and he relocated to the Trench Town slums in Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston, Marley became aware of the prejudices against him. At school Marley became the target of bullying by his classmates because of his dual heritage. These experiences shaped Marley into an advocate for unity, seeing himself as neither black nor white, but being created by both. He was exposed to life in the tenement yards where his days were filled with experiences of extreme poverty and violence, such as witnessing his childhood friends fall prey to the street gangs. It was ultimately Marley’s own past that had the greatest impact on his identity. His songs were his memories, and through his music, Marley was able to describe the conditions which he experienced growing up in the Trench Town slums.

Major Work Consulted:

Andrea Levy: Biography. 7 April, 2008. http://www.andrealevy.co.uk/eca1.html.
---. Fruit of the Lemon. New York: Picador, 1999.
Moskowitz, David. The Words and Music of Bob Marley. Westport: Praeger 2007.
White, Timothy. Catch a Fire. New York: Henry Holt, 2000.
Photo Credit: Levy, Andrea. Fruit of the Lemon. New York: Picador, 1999.


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