Study Guide

Jacob Have I Loved Identity

By Katherine Paterson

Identity

Identity is pretty major—it's basically how we see ourselves in the world relative to other people. So, yeah, it's kind of critical. In Jacob Have I Loved, at her core, Louise sees herself as unattractive, second rate, and forgotten. Needless to say, it's not a fun way to go through life.

Thing is, while Louise believes this is how the world sees her, she doesn't realize how much of this identity she actually creates for herself. Louise has to leave home to find out who she really is before she can toss aside her, er, tossed-aside status. In the end, she finds out she's really strong, brave, and first rate. It just takes a whole lot of soul searching.

Questions About Identity

  1. Why does Louise find comfort in being seen as a crazy person? Find a few particular moments in the text to work with.
  2. Do you think Louise's negative identity is shaped by her family, or is it something Louise kind of invents for herself? Why?
  3. Are you surprised Louise wants to be a doctor? How does this fit with her personality? How does it break from it?

Chew on This

Louise has a really negative view of herself, but Caroline refuses to engage in this (totally normal) teenage self-loathing.

The difference between Louise and her mom is that her mom refuses to feel sorry for herself about the way her life has turned out, while Louise does nothing but feel bad for herself.

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