For this essay, I’ve selected the epigraph “I am not Sidney Poitier” written by Percival Everett. This epigraph talks about returning to a place to try to find something to reconnect with, not knowing who you are as a person, not knowing your own name, and the loss of your identity. I decided to choose this epigraph because it interested me the most after rereading it as well as being the most thought provoking epigraph.
After reading this epigraph, it made me think about a few different things. I think Percival Everett brings up a few good points throughout the epigraph. Firstly, the fact of returning somewhere to try to relate, or to reconnect with something, and not being able to because it no longer exists. After moving out and going to college, returning home is always nice, but it feels much different than it did before. Driving around the familiar streets is a strange feeling after not being home for an extended period of time, revisiting with family and friends that I haven’t seen in a while is also very strange. As well as that, returning to your childhood bedroom is another odd experience. Where you spent a whole 18 years of your life in and now you just return there on holiday breaks or long weekends. When I first returned home after moving to college for the first time I felt like my bedroom wasn’t my bedroom anymore. Of course, nothing had changed, it just no longer felt like home to me. Now, after living at college for a little over a month, my dorm also doesn’t really feel like home to me either. So at this point in time, I feel like a nomad, a person who doesn’t have a set home. I recognized in Percival Everett’s text: “I am not Sidney Poitier”, the main character also feels like when they returned home. A quote from the text to support this statement is: “‘Thank you’ I said. ‘I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite with my whole self, then with a piece of it. What I’ve discovered is that this thing is not here. In fact, it is nowhere.” (Everett, “I am not Sidney Poitier”). To me, this quote means that when the main character returned to some place they had been before in hopes of trying to find something that they’d be reunited with, is not where they thought it would be. In fact, what they were hoping to find is actually nowhere. I relate to this quote a lot because whenever I return home, I feel similar to the way the character is feeling. I thought this part of the epigraph was very interesting.
The next point that Percival Everett brings up in this excerpt is how the character, Sidney Poitier doesn’t know who they are. They do not know their name and they don’t know who they are but everyone around them knows who they are. I can relate to this section of the epigraph because I have also had moments where I wasn’t quite sure who I was as a person. I feel like growing up teaches you a lot about yourself and that you learn more and more every day. But up until that point you don’t really know who you are completely yet. A quote to support this statement from the epigraph is: “…I have learned that my name is not my name. It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself.” (Everet, “I am not Sidney Poitier”). I think what this quote explains is that the main character of the novel, not Sidney Poitier, doesn’t know who they are quite yet. The person states “I have learned that my name is not my name.” meaning that they have realized that the name they’ve gone by throughout their lives is in fact, not their name. They have realized that they do not know who they are as a person. Not Sidney Poitier states that: “It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself.” This quote explains how the character is feeling about returning to a place where they’d hope to find something to connect with. Because they were not able to find what they were looking for, they now feel very lost. They no longer know who they are as a person, let alone knowing their own name. Not Sidney Poitier has felt like they’ve lost their own identity.
The final point Percival Everett brings up in this epigraph is that the character in this story is explaining how their mother is buried not far from where they are. They state how there aren’t any inscriptions written on their tombstone. A quote to support this statement is: “…My mother is buried not far from this auditorium, and there are no words on her headstone. As I glance out now, as I feel the weight of this trophy in my hands, as I stand like aspeciment before these strangely unstrange faces, I know finally what should be written on that stone. It should sway what mine will say: I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.” (Everett, “I am Not Sidney Poitier”). This quote is just showing how not Sidney Poitier does not feel like themself for the day. They have lost their identity, their name, and what they know about themselves as a whole. I thought this part of the epigraph was interesting because the word “epigraph” has two different meanings. One meaning is a short paragraph before a chapter in a story that explains what is going to happen throughout the chapter. The second meaning to the word “epigraph” is an inscription that is written on an object. This portion of the epigraph made me think a lot about the different meanings behind certain words.
After reading through the epigraph, and thinking about what the author was saying, I thought about how this could affect my class experiences and how I can set some goals for myself because of it. I considered how I would do this. I took into consideration how I would go about setting these goals for myself and how I would achieve them. Working with my own thought process, and how I think about being able to achieve certain goals, made me also think about the process of writing this essay and what I would say. I thought about how I would structure the essay as well as what words I chose to use. I also considered what my goals would be. I decided that my goals for this class should be: how to write better/more fluently, how to be more concise, and to make sure I am able to better understand the texts we have to read throughout this semester. This epigraph made me consider not only what Percival Everett was really trying to show us, but also made me think about this course and how I can set goals for myself through reading this text.
After reading this epigraph several times, thinking about what I thought it meant, and considering what Percival Everett was trying to say, I can say I have learned a lot. I learned a lot about the thinking process and about setting goals for myself for this semester through the thinking process.