Motherless Brooklyn traces Lionel's growth from an orphaned child, to one of the Minna men, to an independent sleuth, to a legitimate car-service employee. The novel is in many ways a classic bildungsroman—a novel that deals with the formative years of an individual, that tells of the search for identity, truth, and sexual maturity. One of the central themes of the novel is Lionel's quest to discover his own identity, to find his place in the world as a real detective. Lionel's countless tics on his name are one way the novel represents this search; Liable Guesscog, Laughing Gassrog, Confessdog, Freakshow, Valiant Daffodil, Alibi Diffident, Final Escrow, Ironic Pissclaim are all, although apparently random verbal tics, representations of parts of Lionel's personality. Lionel's quest for Frank's killer also becomes Lionel's quest for his own identity. It is only through Frank's death that Lionel can become his own person; only through becoming Minna's avenger can Lionel become himself, a true detective at last. Lionel says at the beginning of the novel that "the distance between me and me was enormous"; through solving of the mystery of Frank's murder and through narrating the story, however, Lionel closes this gap. An important aspect of Lionel's self-discovery is his attempt to establish connections with others, symbolized at first by his possession of other people's cell phones and beepers. The novel moves from Lionel randomly answering other...
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