In the novel It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It by Robert Fulghum, what does the writer say about the identity and how does it defines who we are?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Robert Fulghum, in It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, reflects on his own life and identity. He notes that when he asks people what they do, they respond with a business card that has a title on it but which does not reveal tell hi who they are.

When I ask people what they do, I usually get a stiff little piece of “3 ½ x2” paper that summarizes their identity. Name, company name, title, address, lots of numbers – phone, telex, cable, and fax. Business card.

He tries to reconcile what he does with who he is, as they are not the same. His conclusion is that he is complex, as all of us are complex, and our identities are not--or should not--be based solely on what we do for a living. If we love to sing, we are singers. If we clean the bathroom, we are janitors. And whatever we do, we should do it to the best of our ability. 

Our identity, then, should be found in who we are and what we love rather than what we do. The next time someone asks what we do, 

instead of answering that question with what we do to get money, we [should reply] with what we do that gives us great pleasure or makes us feel useful to the human enterprise.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial