Study Guide

The House of the Scorpion Identity

By Nancy Farmer


"I'll tell you this: El Patrón has his good side and his bad side. Very dark indeed is his majesty when he wants to be. When he was young, he made a choice, like a tree does when it decides to grow one way or the other. He grew large and green until he shadowed over the whole forest, but most of his branches are twisted." (7.38)

When it comes to Matt's identity, El Patrón is the big elephant in the room. His power and influence are always there, along with the question: will Matt, too, turn out to be twisted?

He couldn't see much difference between himself and Tom, but perhaps he was different inside. The doctor once told Rosa that clones went to pieces when they got older. What did that mean? (7.45)

Even at the age of seven, Matt is dealing with some pretty gnarly questions of identity. Here, he questions his own future, when he might go "to pieces."

Even so, the ability to create music filled him with a joy too large to contain. He forgot where he was. He forgot he was a clone. The music made up for everything. (9.42)

Matt's love for music is one of the few bright spots in his fairly dark upbringing, and the lovely language in this quote helps us understand just how important that bright spot is to him and his identity.

He wasn't a clone! He couldn't be! Somehow, somewhere a mistake had been made. [...] Was he going to end up strapped to a bed, screaming until he ran out of air? (13.1)

The short sentences and exclamation points emphasize Matt's shock and panic after seeing MacGregor's brain-damaged clone in the hospital. Matt is, to put it plainly, scared out of his wits.

As had happened when he was deeply upset before, the power of speech left him. He was six years old again, master of a kingdom of gristle and bone and rotting fruit hidden beneath the sawdust in a little room. (13.119)

Even though he was just seven when it happened, that period of captivity at the hands of Rosa has a pretty big impact on Matt's identity.

But Tam Lin had called Matt a human and expected much more from him. Humans, Matt realized, were a lot harder to forgive. (14.12)

By splitting the sentence, Farmer emphasizes her point more clearly, because we start with "humans" and end with "forgive." But why? Why are humans harder to forgive?

He wasn't sure why he wanted to wake her up, only that it seemed horrible to see her so changed. If there was anything left of Rosa, it was locked in an iron box. (17.8)

Does Rosa's identity still exist? Or is she gone forever?

There was still the terrible fate of the other clones to consider.

My brothers, thought Matt. (19.53-54)

This brief scene really shakes us up. It's pretty scary to think of all the other Matts who have died to keep El Patrón alive all these years. When he calls them his brothers, it's almost as if he's grieving for their deaths, even though he never knew them.

"No one can tell the difference between a clone and a human. That's because there isn't any difference. The idea of clones being inferior is a filthy lie." (24.42)

Darn tootin', Tam Lin! The idea that Matt is an animal is a bunch of nonsense. It's nothing but lies made up by ignorant members of the Alacrán household.

All those years [Celia]'d told him not to think of her as his mother fell away. No one else cared for him the way she did. No one protected him or loved him so much, except, perhaps, Tam Lin. And Tam Lin was like his father. (31.102)

Here, Matt realizes that he really does have a family, even if it's not the most normal in the world. He's more than just someone's clone, he's the surrogate son of two awesome people.

The plan must have been in El Patrón's mind all along. He'd never intended to let Mr. Alacrán or Steven inherit the kingdom. Their education was as hollow as Matt's. None of them was meant to survive. (38.28)

All of El Patrón's clones are destined for death. How do you keep a sense of self when you know you will be killed to keep someone else alive?

Tomorrow he would begin the task of breaking down the empire of Opium. It was a huge and terrifying job, but he wasn't alone. (38.63)

Here's a new identity for Matt. He's no longer the lonely clone. He's now responsible for an entire country, and he's got friends to boot.

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