Loss of Identity

Boyd explores what it means to lose one’s social identity as well as how people can interact in society without an established identity. Adam’s transformations are reflected by his assumed names and new positions in society.

At first, Adam is a successful climatologist and is well known for his creation of a cloud chamber. When he moves to London, his reputation is such that he is able to get a senior research fellowship at Imperial College. Adam gives up this life—including his credit cards, his phone number, and his savings—when he decides to flee from the police.

Adam establishes a new life as John 1603. He is proud of himself for being able to succeed in this underground world. Without the advantages that his education and upbringing bring him, Adam cunningly employs several means of begging for cash. Although he ruthlessly steals a blind man’s walking stick, he receives as much a £100 a day by begging. Furthermore, as John, Adam is forced to interact with other scheming personalities, including Mr. Abdul-Latif Quality, Mhouse’s landlord.

Adam’s final persona in the novel is Primo Belem. As Primo, Adam is able to engage in a meaningful relationship and build his life from the ground up again. Furthermore, Adam becomes a sort of hero as Primo by spoiling Alfredo Rilke’s plans to market Zembla-4. More disturbingly, he murders Vincent Turpin to save himself from Jonjo Case.

Ultimately, some things do not change for Adam, regardless of his identity loss. Everyone he meets recognizes him as a well-educated man; Bishop Vemi even offers him a job representing the Church of John Christ. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether Adam has truly cut all ties to his previous life. He phones his father, there is a suggestion that Rita is aware of Adam’s true identity, and Jonjo Case believes that he will some day be able to track down Adam Kindred by following the license plate number of Primo Belem’s scooter. Most significantly,...

(The entire section is 827 words.)