Identification by Association

Word Count
Cerro Coso Community College
english 102
Pooley 1
Jessica Pooley
Professor Gary Enns
English 102 (32969)
10 April 2019
Essay 3
Identification by Association
You have many social circles to which you belong. Your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,
or Snapchat will confirm that is true. Is there particular group you feel aligns more fully to your
values? Is there one group specifically that you feel a deep sense of belonging with? Do often
feel an “us” versus “them” mentality when dealing with other social groups? According to Saul
McLeod, this is likely due to Social Identity Theory.
Social Identity Theory was originally proposed by Henri Tajfel in 1979. He asserted that
a person’s identity, self-worth, and image are defined and reinforced by the societal groups they
associate with (McLeod). Furthermore, there are distinctive mental processes that one progress
through when identifying with a particular group: phase one is categorization, phase two is social
identification, and phase three is social comparison (Baker). In The Elephant Man by Bernard
Pomerance, the main character John Merrick was stricken by an unknown ailment that caused
grotesque deformity of his body. Merrick’s repulsive appearance impacted his ability to find true
acceptance in any public circles thus his social identity was formed by his belief in Christianity,
peoples’ ability to find pieces of their own identities in him, and his non-conformity to the social
circles in which he “belonged”.
Perhaps the group that Merrick identifies with the most, is Christianity. Merrick identifies as
a Christian and often discusses religious issues with Bishop, Treves, and Mrs. Kendal. At one
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point, Bishop refers to Merrick’s physical ailments as “his cross” (Pomerance 19). Merrick must
bear the burden of his cross for the entirety of his life. In the Bible, Jesus carries a cross and
ultimately the sins of the world to His death on the cross. Another similarity drawn between
Jesus and Merrick is in Scene XIX, when Merrick exclaims, “It is done.” (Pomerance 66).
Merrick finishing his work of art and, aside for calling for his roommate before dying, the last
word he utters. These are the same words that the Lord Jesus Christ exclaims on Calvary before
He gives up the Holy Ghost and dies (The Holy Bible). The reason Merrick identifies with
Christianity so strongly is because he has more similarities to Christ the “normal” people. Christ
was ostracized for his beliefs; Merrick is ostracized for his appearance. Christ bore sins of the
world; Merrick bore, as it is suggested in the play, the sins of his mother who was “knocked