Identity In The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

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For thousands of years, people have puzzled over the question “What gives something its identity?” There are several different lines of philosophical thinking that seek to answer this question. Some people believe that an item’s identity is derived from its material composition. Others support a more objective viewpoint that it is others’ memories of something that gives it its identity, or one’s own personal memories. In The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby experiences a situation which could lead someone to question his identity. After suffering a massive stroke and being left in a condition where he is “locked in” his own body, the only way he has to communicate with the outside world is through slight eye movements.…show more content…
Figuring this out is a somewhat complicated because it seems to change throughout the book. There are definitely times where it is clear that Bauby does not view himself as a different person; in fact he takes measures to ensure that everyone else knows so. However, there are several moments of self-doubt that lead the reader to question if Bauby believes in his own identity anymore. At one point, someone asks him if he is still there, and he says, “I have to admit that at times I do not know anymore” (Bauby 42). Of course, in the literal sense, Bauby knows that he is still “there”, meaning that he is existing in that time and space, but is he really existing in the same manner that he had before his stroke. More than once, Bauby uses words such as zombie and corpse to describe his body. This indicates some kind of dissociation with his past self and his current self. However, it is always the people most important in his life that pull him back into realizing that his identity really has not changed all that much. For example, when he spends the day with his children, Bauby is reminded that he still plays an important role in their lives. The fact that he has changed so much physically has nothing to do with how his family remembers him and feels about him
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