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ENGL 102- Essay #4: Identity and “My Mother’s Life”

Sep 13, 2023

Essay #4: Identity and “My Mother’s Life”


  1. Please upload the final draft of your final essay. This essay should be: MLA formatted, double-spaced, and a minimum of five full pages.
  1. Your essay should have a clear introduction, a clear thesis statement, distinct body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The works cited page at the end of the essay should list all the sources included (a minimum of three, including the book).
  2. Your essay will respond to the following prompt: When Noah’s stepfather begins abusing him and his mother, he learns how South African society views and treats female domestic violence victims. He witnessed the police discredit his mother’s claims, and she only finally left Abel after he almost killed her. How do you think these experiences influenced his future and shaped his relationship with his mother?

Identity and “My Mother’s Life”

“Born a Crime ” is an autobiography of renowned comedian, Trevor Noah. It was published in the month of November 2016. It brings to the forefront the extraordinary story of a man who has not lost his humor and courage in the face of very difficult challenges and hardships. Noah calls his mother the driving force behind this courage and gives her credit for whatever he has come to achieve.  In his autobiography he writes, “Whilst my mother couldn’t give access to the world, she at least made sure to let me know it existed. A kid cannot dream of being an astronaut if he doesn’t know about space.” This snippet from his work shows how he maneuvered in life with all the knowledge and lessons he learned from his mother. As the novel progresses the bond between Noah and his mother Patricia strengthens as they go through struggles that can be viewed from several spectrums at once. It can be seen how Noah’s life is shaped by cultural, social, and political factors as much as by personal circumstances. In spite of this his character comes out as resilient and in many aspects a replica of his mother (Noah, 2016).    

The relationship between Noah and Patricia is very realistically presented which includes general disagreements and conflicts. At the start of the story, it becomes instantly clear that Patricia is a strict mother who doesn’t tolerate any kind of disobedience. She very much indulges in religion and visits three churches every Sunday. This shows how she looks at life from the perspective of morals and becomes easily frustrated when Noah breaks her rules because in her eyes disobedience is very wrong and could lead to dire consequences if she let it go without punishment. As growing up Trevor was disciplined by Patricia to read the Bible and be thankful towards God. Being a consistent devotee herself, Patrica took life with hope and optimism. Later in the story, it is these morals and discipline taught by Patricia that rule Noah’s mentality and stop him from straying on any wrong path. They both are humorous and laugh at the problems in life which is the core aspect of the career chosen by Noah later. The last chapter, “My Mother’s Life”, is one of the most important chapters because it has one of the lowest emotional points Noah faces. This changes many perspectives for Noah where he came to see the way society oppresses women. Thus, the incidents of facing abuse on the domestic front by his stepdad to the incident of his mother getting shot have deep psychological impacts on Noah that changed his relationship with his mother forever. Noah considers his mother as a beautiful person both inside-out and goes on admiring her beauty as she is engrossed in mundane chores of daily life. Moreover, there is a sense of pride in him, for he considers his mom a self-confident, independent, and hardworking woman.

The life of Trevor and his mother took an unexpected turn when Abel entered into their life. He had a charming personality and worked as a mechanic and worked in Mighty Mechanics, a garage in Yeoville. But soon they realized that he had many dark sides hidden beneath the facade. He developed a habit of drinking and abusing Patrica. Therefore, Noah grew up in a South-African society where he saw his stepfather committing violence towards his mother and later on himself and learned important lessons concerning police authority. He got to know about how society viewed women’s independence and discarded their opinions.

When everything got too much and Noah became an adult he decided to leave home because his gut feeling told him that Patrica’s decision to stick to her abusive, drunkard stepdad was wrong. This new freedom didn’t make him less worried but still took his mind off his mom’s decision. Noah used this time to change his life and became a stand-up comedian as well as an explorer. His future became very different as compared to the past he grew up in (Noah, 2016). In the starting, Patricia and Noah looked positive as he was funny and appeared charming to them. He was one of those people who was always ready to help others and make it easy for everyone to adore him. Trevor also considers him strong physically and thinks of him as a cool friend of his mom. As a seven-year-old kid, Trevor talks about having an intuition that Abel is not the right person for his mother, Patricia. This shows his inner connection with his mom but her determination made it hard for him to confront her or convenience him not to marry Abel.

After marriage, both Patricia and Abel had a child named Andrew. It was neither happy nor sad news for Trevor as he was quite young to get an understanding of things happening around him. For the first time, Patricia did not get on well with Abel in Tzaneen, as the area preferred certain rules for women to always be followed. At that time, Noah was a kid and enjoyed the male privilege he got in Tsonga. Noticing changes in the attitude of his stepfather made him a critical thinker, and he wanted his mom to be independent rather than marry others. It took some time for Noah to adjust because their behavior of Abel started as friendly, but after some time, it was evident that Noah’s stepdad did not like him to sit around or give presents on his birthday. Disconnecting himself from repairing cars, Abel made it difficult for both mother and son to go to church or even visit Trevor’s dad. As an independent duo, Patricia and Trevor never felt they needed a man in their life to dictate and manage them. It was out of sheer likeability that his mom decided to be with Abel. The first sign of abuse was seen when Trevor’s stepdad came home drunk as usual and, in order to heat his meal, almost burned the house. Patricia being bold and unafraid to stand up for herself questions Abel on his manhood and habit of drinking. This infuriates him, and he slaps her many times for disrespecting him. Trevor realized at this point that the police were of no help and treated cases of domestic violence as fickle matters. Even though Abel gave a sincere apology and promised never to use coercion, the damage was already done. He stayed true to his words for some years, and that is why Patricia stayed with him.

One of the important aspects that affected Trevor’s life was the financial crisis faced by his family. He saw his mother as a person who kept giving back in the relationship and business and yet went through violence at both physical and mental levels. He tried his best to keep up with such situations by sleeping in cars, eating caterpillars, and helping in the garage despite school (Laster and Whitney, 2019). Noah describes his experience as a first child and always wonders why he gets more punishment than his younger stepbrother, Andrew. Patricia justifies her love even though she beats Trevor by saying that he can handle it as he is stronger than Andrew. This relationship between mother and son gets more mature as Patricia stops using violence to punish Trevor. This is something she learned from him, noticing how Trevor grew up in an environment of domestic violence around him yet has no aggressiveness or violent attitude to suppress others. Noah believes that true love is the key that makes violence pointless and creates a new and happy world for others.

Noah deeply loves his mother not only because she is a “teammate” but also has unhindered devotion towards God. This inspires Trevor, and he considers his mother to deserve the best in the world. Eventually, looking at her disruptive relationship with Abel makes him angry with his mother. Why can’t she move on or leave this abuse? he thought. He expects such daring steps from his mother because she overcame the problems they faced during apartheid. Noah temporarily distances himself from the family in order to seek his life goals, such as comedy, traveling, and other exploring fields. After some time in the story, when Noah gets a little out of his frustration with his mom, he realizes that culture and relationships have very different realities and are not how, as young kids, we imagine them to be. Moreover, he understands the decisions taken by Patricia for security that she prefers above independence while having three children in South African society. The relationship between Noah and Patricia is unconditional and enriching as both care for each other’s sanity and well-being. Making decisions the way his mom will make in the very situation shows how Patricia and Trevor share similar moral consciences and are selfless for each other (Toywa, 2019).

Trevor and Patricia’s relationship also developed later into a mature bond. Both of them tried to understand the importance of love and circumstances that can make a person restrained despite an independent ideology. He recalls his experience as a child when he was beaten by his mother as she was strict and demanded discipline but this he felt was out of love. Whereas, Abel’s beating reflected violence that was out of revenge or hatred. Nosh distanced himself as he grew as a boy who could not compromise any more with the environment of his house. He was still in a dilemma as to why his mother wouldn’t leave like he left the house. As he matures, he is able to realize with the help of Patricia that his relationship with Abel is complex, and leaving him will only attract life-threatening situations. To this point, Trevor was able to understand that love was the solution to the challenges that he faced. He with his realization made his mother feel that love is the most powerful thing and enables creating a healthy environment around the people you care for. This perception helped Patricia move on from the past methods of strict upbringing and stopped using violence on her younger children.

The life of women in South African society needs to go through challenges that are rooted at personal and professional levels. Although Patricia was able to access a job and a position in a company to support the dying business of Abel, she was not happy in her marriage because of the domestic violence put on her. There was only limited control regarding decisions to leave a toxic relationship like this. The police officers gave no credibility to a woman’s oppression and instead had a mentality of blaming them for listening to their husband’s demands. Till the end when Patricia was shot and yet saved miraculously, she gives the credit to God. This incident made Trevor vulnerable as he kept on crying like a baby who almost lost his mom to death. The love for the mother-son relationship is felt by the readers when they almost wonder if Noah will keep money above Patricia’s treatment. While deciding to spend all his fortune on his mother the thoughts of Trevor revolved around the future of his young siblings which is again a reflection of Patricia’s upbringing. In conclusion, Noah’s autobiography stands as one great example of overcoming one’s past and becoming a person who remains strong and sacrifices everything for someone in his life that matters to him more than anything else.

Works Cited

Noah, Trevor. Born a crime: Stories from a South African childhood. Doubleday Canada, 2016.

Laster Pirtle, Whitney N. “how does it feel to be born a problem?.” Contexts 18.3 (2019): 50-51.

Toywa, Olivia S. Narrating the Self in Apartheid Through Humour in Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. Diss. University of Nairobi, 2019.

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