by Jerry Spinelli
Maniac Magee Theme of Innocence
Maniac has it tough. It's awfully hard to remain innocent when you leave the only family you've ever known at age 11 and live by your wits for most of the next two years. At the same time, even though he's experienced some really hard times, he has more innocence than we'd expect. But we don't mean innocent like he doesn't get dirty jokes (although he probably wouldn't). His innocence is the inability to see the worst in people and in his willingness to befriend just about anyone. Most of all, Maniac Magee shows Maniac's innocence in his deep-down, can't-be-overcome, wholehearted desire to find a family of his own.
Questions About Innocence
- What do you think could have happened during Maniac's lost year, and how could this make him more or less innocent?
- What role do younger siblings (especially Hester and Lester and Russell and Piper) play in the story?
- What effect does the loss of his parents and Grayson have on Maniac?
- How might Maniac have turned out differently if he'd met the McNabs before he met the Beales and Pickwells?
Chew on This
Maniac's innocence often puts him in danger. His inability to grasp just why people didn't want him in the East End, or exactly what was going on in the McNab house leaves him vulnerable to the hatred of others.
Maniac stays with Russell and Piper because he understands that innocence can be lost—but it can also be saved.