Study Guide

I Know This Much is True Identity

By Wally Lamb


It's pretty much impossible to tell the Olsen twins or those two boys from The Leftovers apart. If Mary-Kate tries to take over the world and enters into a death battle with Ashley, we'd be screwed in terms of figuring our which one was the evil one, and which one we wanted to win.

Now imagine if you're one of the twins, but you don't even know which one you are—the good one, or the evil one. Talk about an identity crisis. In I Know This Much is True, Dominick Birdsey is a twin, and his brother, Thomas, has paranoid schizophrenia. Dominick is trying to define himself apart from his twin, which is hard to do when they look exactly alike and have been attached at the hip since the womb. At Dominick's lowest moments, he starts to wonder exactly which of them is the crazy one, which is a doozy of a conundrum.

Questions About Identity

  1. How would Dominick's life be different if he and Thomas weren't twins?
  2. Is Dominick a mirror image of Thomas? How are they similar? How are they different?
  3. How does Ray's bullying affect Thomas's self-worth? Is Thomas's identity affected more because of how he's treated or because of his mental illness?
  4. In what ways is Dominick like his grandfather? Does he see himself in his grandfather? What does he see in his grandfather that he doesn't like?

Chew on This

The main reason Dominick doesn't want to be associated with Thomas is because he sees Thomas as weak; Dominick doesn't want to be weak.

Despite being twins, Dominick and Thomas are distinctly different because of the way they were raised—one favored by Ma, the other favored by Ray.