Freak the Mighty
by Rodman Philbrick
Max may look like his nasty dad and he may consider himself a big butthead, but we can tell through his actions that he's got a heart of gold. His first instinct when he sees Freak trying to reach for something stuck in the tree is to help: "I keep out of range of that crutch and just reach up and pick up the paper thing right out of the tree" (3.11). Sure, it's not like he's saving him from drowning or anything, but it's the little actions that reveal the most about a person, right?
And think about the way he treats his grandparents. Yes, he refers to his grandfather as "Grim," but he's always respectful and caring toward them, even when he just wants to be left alone. When a sales clerk tells his Gram she doesn't know about the current styles, Max comes to her defense. He doesn't do it with words, but with actions: "Just to prove what a jerk he is, I tie up the laces and that makes Gram happy" (12.18).
Max might not say much, but his actions speak loud and clear.
In Freak the Mighty, just about everyone has a nickname in this book.
Max's nicknames mostly indicate that he's different from everyone else and that he's an outcast: "Mad Max they were calling me, or Max Factor, or this one butthead in L.D. class called me Maxi Pad" (1.10). So for Max, names are just a way of distancing him even more from other people. But notice that Max dubs Kevin Freak, and Freak totally owns the name. It's not about what other people call you, but how you think of yourself.
For other characters, nicknames tend to be slightly more accurate characterizations.
• Max's grandpa, Grim, certainly doesn't have a cheery disposition, so his nickname fits him pretty well.
• The Fair Gwen is beautiful inside and out. We'd say she's definitely fair.
• And Killer Kane? Well, that nickname speaks for itself.
Physical appearances tend to be deceiving in Freak the Mighty. In fact, our two protagonists are both judged on how they look, when they're actually quite different on the outside.
Max is a big dude and he looks just like his dad. Add it all up and everyone thinks he's going to be just like his criminal father. But as it turns out, Max is more of the gentle giant type. And Freak is a similar case: he's small, weak, and turns out to be sort of sickly, but the kid's got a brain the size of Einstein and the willpower of a knight.