Study Guide

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks Identity

By E. Lockhart

Identity

She was a girl who liked to read, had only ever had one boyfriend, enjoyed the debate team, and still kept gerbils in a Habitrail. (2.7)

The beginning-of-the-year Frankie bears very little resemblance to the Frankie we see at the end of the novel. But does her physical transformation parallel an inner one? In other words, has Frankie's identity changed—or is she still the same girl?

How does a person become the person she is? What are the factors in her culture, her childhood, her education, her religion, her economic stature, her sexual orientation, her race, her everyday interactions – what stimuli lead her to make choices other people will despise her for? (16.1)

Frankie's obviously in the process of growing up throughout the book. She's kind of starting to figure out who she is in relation to everyone else. But figuring out who she is in relation to everyone else is not necessarily the same thing as figuring out who she is in the first place.

"Don't worry," said Frankie. "I'm indelible." (18.76)

While we salute the sentiment, we wonder if Frankie really buys what she's selling here. After all, if she is in fact indelible, why does she keep letting Matthew squelch her true self? Why does she keep his shirt?

What mattered was that feeling of being expendable. That to Porter, she was a nobody that could easily be replaced by a better model—and the better model wasn't even so great. (20.4)

Frankie's not so much mourning the loss of her relationship with Porter as she is angry with him for making her feel insignificant. For Frankie, a sense of identity is deeply connected to her ability to make an impact on others, and to be valued.

It gave them a sense of identity that was separate from the values of the school that shaped them, and it gave them a sense of family when they were away from home. (21.19)

The Loyal Order has their identities wrapped up in each other. No wonder Matthew's so secretive all the time. He's part of a collective. But we can't help but wonder what will happen to the dogs once they graduate and leave Alabaster. What will their identities be like when they're on their own out in the real world?

Matthew had called her harmless. Harmless. And being with him made Frankie feel squashed into a box- a box where she was expected to be sweet and sensitive (but not oversensitive); a box for young and pretty girls who were not as bright or powerful as their boyfriends. (29.18)

Frankie certainly doesn't want to be boxed into this idea that Matthew has about who she is as a girlfriend. She's not into having her identity defined by others. She'd rather do it herself, thank you very much.

"You act like I need a boyfriend to take care of me." (39.61)

It's insulting that Frankie's mom thinks she needs a babysitter to take care of her. She's very well able to take care of herself. It seems to Shmoop that Frankie's mom doesn't really understand who her daughter is. Maybe if she were paying closer attention, she'd realize that she's raised a strong young woman—and not a foolish little girl.

"I'm a bad friend," moaned Frankie, shivering with chill and pain. "I know it. I'm a horrible friend. I'm sorry. I just – I don't know how to be anything else right now." (42.50)

In the process of trying so hard to be a member of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, Frankie's lost sight of the people who have been there for her all along. And once you lose sight of that, you lose sight of yourself, too.

She hoped, she hoped he would understand. That he would appreciate her the way he appreciated Alpha. Admire her cleverness, her ambition, her vision. (43.104)

Well, don't get your hopes up, Frankie girl. Matthew's not going to react too well to your big confession. His identity is too wrapped up in his reputation and status in the school. Matthew may be self-assured, but he's not sure in himself. If he were, he'd probably be a better boyfriend.

It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can't see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. (46.60)

In the end, Frankie gets it. It's not right that Matthew doesn't accept her for who she is, and she's better off without him anyway. In the words of a certain Miss Swift, they're never ever getting back together. Like ever.

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