Study Guide

Lord of Light Identity

By Roger Zelazny


Identity is nuts in Lord of Light. You know how so many stories on identity are about finding your true self? Well, this novel is sort of like that… only a little less cut and dry. The question is: How would you know your true self even if you found it? It's a legit question, and Sam goes through the entire novel pretending to be a Buddha, lying his butt off to garner followers. But in pretending to be the Buddha, does Sam become a Buddha? Sam doesn't think so, but others sure do.

Another question on identity: Can who you are ever change? The gods have been transferring themselves from body to body for millennia. But in all that shifting of self, does their core identity remain the same, or does it alter with each new life? We never get a definitive answer to any of these queries. Not one. Just questions to ponder… and ponder… and ponder.

Questions About Identity

  1. Reread the opening lines of the novel. What do these suggest about Sam's identity? When these same lines are repeated at the novel's end, do they change or reaffirm this identity?
  2. People in this novel switch bodies like sweatshirts. Do you think this affects their identity? If so, how and why? If not, why not? Don't forget to use examples.
  3. What do you think the relationship between religion and identity is in the novel? Alternatively, what do you think the relationship between society and identity is?

Chew on This

Sam has many names but only one self, though that self remains hidden throughout the novel.

In contrast, Kali has many selves and many identities because she never holds steadfastly to any belief, idea, or creed.