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Where Oliver Fits

by Cale Atkinson


Oliver is a puzzle piece looking for his perfect fit. He wants to be a part of something big and exciting, but he faces rejection from other pieces because he is not the shape or color needed for the puzzle. Oliver changes himself to fit in with the other pieces, but realizes he can’t be happy pretending to be someone else. He continues his search and finds his perfect fit.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Oliver struggles with finding a place to fit in among the other pieces. How an individual fits in with a community and what role that person plays is a topic in political and social philosophy. If people are social by nature, then finding a place in the community could be essential to living a good life. When Oliver is met with rejection, he changes his entire appearance to gain favor among the community. This brings up the idea of personal identity. How much can a person change themselves before they are a different person? If Oliver changed his color and shape, does his identity remain intact? People face this issue in real life, as they experience inevitable change with the passage of time. Almost everyone intentionally changes themselves for the purposes of growth or sometimes to please others. The discussion questions on identity may help students explore the nature of personal growth and change.

Changing oneself for the purpose of fitting into a community is a philosophical question that many students will know well. We often change ourselves intentionally by learning skills and behaviors to serve and live in our community happily. We learn manners and customs along with job skills. When are changes conducive to a good life and when are changes not? There is room for discussion concerning the existence of an unchanging part of our personal selves, which some might call a soul. Some would argue that we are in a constant state of change, and no part of us remains the same. Oliver changed too much of himself to be happy and decided to continue his search for the perfect fit.

The puzzle pieces that rejected Oliver pointed out the features they did not accept. They also laughed at him and mocked him and the other pieces that did not fit. This part of the story raises ethical questions about how we treat others, especially others that are different in appearance or different in behavior. Oliver didn’t fit the perceived needs of the puzzle pieces that rejected him. This made him feel unworthy. The shapes judged Oliver solely on his appearance, particularly his shape and color. As a group they all put Oliver down and didn’t show kindness or empathy. They didn’t take into consideration any other qualities, such as kindness, intelligence or attitude. A community generally places value on qualities it wants in its members, but is anyone’s place to accept or reject people? What is a community supposed to do with people that do not fit in?

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Individual Role in Community

  1. Where did Oliver want to fit in?
  2. What happened to Oliver when he tried to fit in?
  3. What did Oliver do when no one seemed to accept him?
  4. Did changing himself work?
  5. Was he still himself when he changed?
  6. Have you ever changed something about yourself to fit in?
  7. Should people change themselves to fit in?


  1. How did the other pieces treat Oliver when he tried to fit?
  2. Why didn’t they like him?
  3. How should they treat him?
  4. Should they let Oliver stay even if he doesn’t fit?
  5. What would you do if a shape didn’t fit with you?


  1. When Oliver’s changes worked and he fit in with the purple puzzle, was he happy?
  2. Why wasn’t he happy?
  3. What made him happy?
  4. Does everyone fit in somewhere?
  5. Could Oliver be happy if he didn’t find his place?
Download & Print Email Book Module Back to All Books
Back to All Books Illustrated book cover for Cale Atkinson's Where Oliver Fits featuring an illustration of a jigsaw puzzle on a white background. One puzzle piece stands in an empty space, and clearly will not fit in with the other pieces. Download & Print Email Book Module

About the Prindle Institute

As one of the largest collegiate ethics institutes in the country, the Prindle Institute for Ethics’ uniquely robust national outreach mission serves DePauw students, faculty and staff; academics and scholars throughout the United States and in the international community; life-long learners; and the Greencastle community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Prindle Institute partrnered with Thomas Wartenberg and became the digital home of his Teaching Children Philosophy discussion guides.

Further Resources

Some of the books on this site may contain characterizations or illustrations that are culturally insensitive or inaccurate. We encourage educators to visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s resource guide for talking to children about issues of race and culture in literature. They also have a guide for navigating tough conversations.  PBS Kids’ set of resources for talking to young children about race and racism might also be useful for educators.

Philosophy often deals with big questions like the existence of a higher power or death. Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our resources page.

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