Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Ashley  Dunn 

Vaslav Nijinsky: Artist, Author, and Mental Patient

Reclaiming One’s Identity in a New Place in the Novels of Lauren Oliver

Lauren  Oliver
The protagonists of Lauren Oliver’s young adult novels are forced to venture out of the controlling societies in which they were raised in order to reclaim the identities that have been stripped from them. Lena, the protagonist of the dystopian novel Delirium, follows her society’s rules prohibiting love without hesitation her entire life, and has even looked forward to the mandatory surgery to “cure” her of the ability to love. However, when she meets Alex who lives outside the borders of society in the Wilds, and who has not been subjected to the “Cure,” he allows Lena to see the world differently. Once she enters into the uncharted territory of the Wilds with Alex, she is free to experience life without restrictions of society.With her newfound freedom, Lena is able to find herself and her purpose in life. In the end, she emerges from her experience changed, knowing who she is and ready to conquer the world ahead. Oliver’s overall message is that freedom brings the opportunity to change, and through change an individual is able to find her identity.

Just as Lauren Oliver’s characters enter uncharted territories to discover their identities, Vaslav Nijinsky, an unconventional ballet dancer and choreographer, ventured into the uncharted world of modern ballet to discover his artistic identity. During the early twentieth century, the only dance practiced was classical ballet. Nijinsky wanted to change the ways of ballet and send it into the modern era. He choreographed outstanding dances that featured outgoing themes that overcame the stereotypes in dance. His career was derailed when he went mad. Confused by what was happening to him, he felt as if he lost his identity and was not himself. So he wrote a diary of his thoughts to try and better help himself and his fans to understand his situation. He dedicated his life to his work and his fans. His wife published his diary to preserve his memory. His work in modern ballet is still being adopted by dancers today.

Major Works Consulted:

Nijinsky, Waslaw and Joan Ross Acocella. The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky. Unexpurgated ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.
Oliver, Lauren. Before I Fall. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
--. Delirium. New York: HarperCollins, 2012.
Oswald, Peter. Vaslav Nijinsky: A Leap into Madness. New York: Carol, 1991.
Photo Credit: McBride , Jennifer. “St. Louis County Library Hosts Teen Literary Sensation Lauren Oliver.” 2012. Photograph. PR Web. 29 Apr 2013. prweb9180656.htm