The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
How we cite our quotes:
Being around that woman always made him different from his real self. It made him tough and small and common as she was. (1.2.15)
Biff's tense relationship with Alice shows us that in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, other people have a lot of power in shaping characters' senses of self. But does Biff's identity actually change because of Alice? Or does she just make him feel different sometimes?
He was thinking that in nearly every person there was some special physical part kept always guarded. (1.2.124)
All of the main characters are closed off in some way, and they all try to protect certain aspects of their identity. Other people and the world have the ability to change a person, and the main characters seem to recognize this fact with alarm. We might think of this as a kind of self-preservation, as if these characters want to save and protect their individual identities. But do any of them succeed?
People felt themselves watching him even before they knew that there was anything different about him. His eyes made a person think that he heard things nobody else ever heard, that he knew things no one had ever guessed before. (1.2.82)
All these people think they know Singer. But it's all a big pile of assumptions, guesswork, and hearsay. Who is the real Singer? We're not even sure he knows.