“And Then I Am Busy, Trying to Become Who I Am”: Authentic Identity, Sincere Relationships, and Feminism in Lena Dunham’s Girls and Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?

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Student Presentation

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Ralph Clare


Often compared to Lena Dunham’s critically acclaimed HBO series Girls, Sheila Heti’s novel How Should A Person Be? explores the question the title poses. The main characters in both works, Sheila in How Should A Person Be? and Hannah in Girls, struggle with authentically developing their own identities while being influenced by popular culture and their relationships with men, leading to an unhealthy self-obsession. I will explore the ways that women’s heterosexual relationships in both the novel and the show are portrayed as negatively affecting this search for identity. Additionally, I argue that the same sex friendships the characters develop are what provide the opportunity for a sincere connection, which can lead to a possible solution to their problems with narcissism. Through examining these different types of relationships, I will discuss the ways that How Should A Person Be? and Girls can have a positive impact on the current feminist movement.

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