Study Guide

Julie of the Wolves Identity

By Jean Craighead George

Identity

Leaning over the pond, she saw in the glassy water the hollows of her cheeks. She was pleased, for she looked almost like the <em>gussak </em>girls in the magazines and movies – thin and gaunt, not moon-faced like an Eskimo. (1.95)

Even out here, where there is literally not a single human soul around to impress, Miyax is pleased she's looking skinny like a white model in a magazine. That goes to show just how powerful cultural influences are on our girl's sense of self.

"I'm a wolf now, and wolves love leaders." (1.229)

Well now there's an identity: wolf-girl! Check out how willingly Miyax is able to accept the wolf way of life as a part of her sense of self. It almost seems like she was just waiting for the right crowd to come along, like she was looking for somewhere to belong.

Miyax got down on all fours. "But how am I going to follow you if you won't let me walk? I am me, your two-legged pup." She stood up. Amaroq lifted his eyebrows, but did not reprimand her. He seemed to understand she could not change. (1.231)

Here Miyax forces a compromise between her human identity and her wolf one. It's a cute moment between the girl and her adopted father, but it's also proof of just how much Amaroq cares for her; he's willing to accept her unconditionally, despite her two legs.

They called her father Charlie Edwards and Miyax was Julie, for they all had two names, Eskimo and English. Her mother had also called her Julie, so she did not mind her summer name until one day when Kapugen called her that. She stomped her foot and told him her name was Miyax. "I am Eskimo, not a <em>gussak</em>!" she had said, and he had tossed her into the air and hugged her to him. (2.24)

You know what's really interesting about this quote? How the names are related to the seasons. Julie is Miyax's summer name, because that's when all the English-speaking tourists come around. Winter, on the other hand, is the season when the Eskimos can truly be Eskimos.

With that, Miyax became Julie. She was given a cot near the door in Martha's little house and was soon walking to school in the darkness. She liked to learn the printed English words in books, and so a month passed rather happily. (2.38)

Well that was easy. Who knew that a name change was just a matter of moving to the nearest town? We don't know about you, but Shmoop thinks it's a little sad and strange that she's so willing to give up Miyax so quickly.

The many years in seal camp alone with Kapugen had been dear and wonderful, but she realized now that she had lived a strange life. The girls her age could speak and write English and they knew the names of presidents, astronauts, and radio and movie personalities, who lived below the top of the world. (2.43)

Julie's childhood identity doesn't quite fit into her new Americanized community. Instead of her Eskimo identity being a source of pride, it's a source of shame.

"Julie is gone," she said. "I am Miyax now." (2.141)

What brings on this change? Daniel's attack, of course. After everything she's experienced in Barrow and Mekoryuk, where she will always be Julie, Miyax knows that life in an Alaskan town is simply not for her. At least she's figured out that much. The rest of her soul-searching will just have to wait.

She leaped lightly up the bank and onto the tundra. Her stride opened wider and wider, for she was on her way to San Francisco. (2.141-142)

Miyax has a purpose, and what greater way to develop a sense of self than to have a goal and work towards it? We are, after all, what we do.

She knew what she had to do. Live like an Eskimo – hunt and carve and be with Tornait. (3.185)

Okay, now she's got a new goal. She's no longer San Francisco-bound. She's… <em>home</em>.

Okay, now she's got a new goal. She's no longer San Francisco-bound. She's… <em>home</em>.

"Who are you?"

"Julie Edwards Miyax Kapugen." (3.252-53)

Check out how she uses her full name, both English and Eskimo. Why do you think she does that? Shouldn't Kapugen, of all people, know her by her Eskimo name?