Study Guide

A Million Little Pieces What's Up With the Epigraph?

By James Frey

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What's Up With the Epigraph?

The Young Man came to the Old Man seeking counsel.

I broke something, Old Man.

How badly is it broken?

It's in a million little pieces.

I'm afraid I can't help you.


There's nothing you can do.


It can't be fixed.


It's broken beyond repair. It's in a million little pieces.

What's Up With the Made Up Epigraph?

Like many things in A Million Little Pieces, the epigraph is completely made up. It didn't come from another source; he wrote it himself.

But there it is, opening the book and setting the tone. What is "broken" into "a million little pieces" here? Is it the Young Man himself? His life? His spirit? His collection of snow globes from around the world?

At first, it seems like the Young Man and the Old Man could be James and Leonard, but the Old Man in this epigraph doesn't offer any help or assistance—unlike Leonard, who helps James out of more jams than could happen even in a Smuckers factory.

The last line lends an air of hopeless to the whole poem. It seems to say, "Oh, just give up; you can't fix it." Perhaps that's what addiction feels like: something broken beyond repair, broken so badly you feel you should just give up. That's definitely how James feels before the novel begins, so it's an appropriate way to start.

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