The Power of Knowledge

Throughout Educated, the power of knowledge is depicted as the key to finding freedom and living an authentic life. When Tara first hears her older brother Tyler talk about studying and going to school, she intuitively understands that her life will be richer if she can gain more knowledge. Tara works very hard and suffers greatly in order to get her education because she realizes that her education is changing her and bringing new potential into her life. The knowledge she learns in her studies helps her to understand the world and gives her a new perspective. For example, when she learns about bipolar disorder, Tara finally understands her father's behavior, and can see her family more objectively. As Tara gains knowledge, she also gains self-confidence and a sense of self-worth. Through her education, Tara is able to find new communities and is not solely dependent on her family for wellbeing.

Read more about knowledge as a path to freedom as a theme in Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

The Instability of Memory

The instability of memory leads Tara to sometimes question her ideas about her life and feel a lack of self-confidence. Because Tara is writing a memoir and looking back to events which happened long in the past, she sometimes feels unsure about whether her memories are actually accurate. This problem is exacerbated because when she talks to her different family members, they often have different versions of events, such as when Luke burns his leg. Tara's uncertainty about whether her memory is accurate becomes more problematic around the subject of her abuse. Her family is insistent that Tara is either confused or lying, and because Tara does not always feel confident in her own memories, she is more susceptible to doubting herself. This self-doubt is damaging to her self-worth because she never feels confident and validated.

Read a mini essay on the role unreliable memory plays in Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted.

Conflict between Identities

Many characters in Educated suffer from conflict between different identities, and this forces them to make difficult and painful decisions. Most notably, Tara has to choose between her identity as a devout Mormon woman who is an obedient daughter, and her identity as a thoughtful, curious person who wants to ask questions, see the world, and think for herself. This conflict causes her to suffer because she cannot reconcile these two identities, and she knows she is going to have to choose between her family and her growing identity as a scholar and a modern woman. Tara's two brothers, Tyler and Richard, also pursue their education and experience a similar conflict. Tyler is torn between his identity as Tara's brother, because he wants to stand up for his sister, and his identity as a son, because he knows his loyalty might cause him to be ostracized from the family.

Read about the related theme of complicated identity in Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar.