Big Question with a big answer: What does it mean to be an outsider or insider and how does it affect our personality?
In this book (which is Amazing!) there are two main characters lives that are chronicled. That of Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay. Both outsider cousins for some very similar and clearly different reasons.
Joe Kavalier is a Jewish young man who just made his escape from Nazi infested Prague at the beginning of the book. He is clearly an outsider in his old home because of his religion, but it's also hard for him to find his home in America. He has his aunt and cousin Sammy of course but his parents and brother were left behind in Prague. An artist in both magic and drawing he finds a niche in the new world of comic books with his cousin but struggles to make connection to his work because he has never even read a comic before. They start to make it work but he is still racked with guilt about leaving his family. This is a depression no one can really understand. His feelings almost segregate him from everyone except his lover, Rosa. She sees his pain but has no real way to help him which just adds to his suffering. Basically in the end his outsider status drives him to his breaking point. He changes so dramatically through out the book because he never really learns how to cope with his feelings and refuses to even talk about it. Personality wise he was always a more reserved man but he can't seem to hold himself together and make his life work because of the loneliness that envelopes him.
Sammy on the other hand finds a seemingly perfect life in comic books. He always knew that's what he wanted to do. Never as strong of an artist as his cousin, he was more the brains of the operation. Coming up with new characters and plot lines. He seems to have it all. On the inside of all the glamor of his new business. His deepest secret sets him apart, however. Throughout the book he is in denial of his sexuality which makes it intensely difficult for him to socialize. He seems to pull away from his life. You can't help but feel his pain, he forever has to hid who he is. For the time period this novel is set in, he has to keep his secret to himself for fear of repercussions from the law. His personality is drastically affected. From going to an eager young man who cannot wait to become someone famous he transforms into a secretive self deprecating man.
However different Joe and Sammy's life situations seem their is one common thread: they both cannot run from their secrets. They pull away from society creating a painful isolation neither can seem to break.