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I Am the Cheese

I Am the Cheese

by Robert Cormier

Identity Theme

Imagine being told that you were born with a different name, that you had family members you had never met, that your entire life was being orchestrated by a total stranger. That's exactly what happens to Adam Farmer as a teenager. Talk about an identity crisis! What we learn from Adam is that identity is more than a name and a persona: it's a history. Without a history, without your past, you can't really know who you are. Adam's personal history is missing not only because his family was placed in the Witness Re-Establishment Program, but also because his memory is shot. He can only remember bits and pieces of his past, and from the looks of it, he's stuck reliving the same events over and over, without realizing it. It's like the worst Groundhog Day ever.

Questions About Identity

  1. If Adam had to write a short bio for the program of a school play he was in, what would he say about himself?
  2. What is Adam's identity when he's on his bike ride? How about when he's in the sessions with Brint? Think about what's similar and what's different between these two Adams.
  3. If this Adam were plopped in the Garden of Eden with Eve, would he have eaten the forbidden fruit? Which of his actions in the text influence your answer?
  4. What do you think Adam would have been like if he'd had a normal childhood? How would his identity be different?
  5. Does changing your name change your identity? How does the name change affect Adam and his parents?
  6. How do Adam's parents try to hold onto their identities after they are placed in the Witness Re-Establishment Program? Do you think they succeed?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Name, shmame. It doesn't matter that Adam changed his name and moved away from his hometown, he's still the exact same person he was before.

People with amnesia can't have an identity, because in order to know who you are, you have to know who you were.

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