Study Guide

A Million Little Pieces Rules and Order

By James Frey

Rules and Order

I change into the clothes he brought me. A pair of khakis, a white T-shirt, some slippers. They're warm and soft and they feel good. I almost feel human. (1.4.38)

Putting on clean clothes is James's first step toward becoming a healthy person again. It's like faking it 'til you make it. If you want to be clean, you have to stop dressing in torn, bloody clothes.

The Rules here are for your own good. I suggest that you follow them. (1.4.97)

This is Roy talking to James. We later learn that Roy is a fink who always tries to get James in trouble. Does Roy see the rules as an actual path to recovery, or just a way to get other people into trouble?

The women are housed in separate Units and contact with them is not allowed. If you see them in the Halls, hell is okay, how are you is not. If you violate this Rule, you may be asked to leave. (1.4.107)

Out of all the rules, this is the one that ends up affecting James the most. His relationship with Lilly is against the rules from the beginning; perhaps that's one of the reasons it's so appealing to him.

There's a job, there's your name. The longer you're here, the easier the job. Since you just arrived, you have to clean the Group Toilets. (1.5.21)

The rules sometimes feel like they have a sort of hazing quality to them. We're surprised James doesn't have to clean the johns with his toothbrush. Do all these Rules benefit the patients, or are they kind of arbitrary?

It's Visiting Day. I wouldn't miss Visiting Day. (2.1.227)

James's brother seems to understand the rules better than James does, and it's a good thing, too. James probably wouldn't have any visitors if his brother didn't show up. 

In the back of the book […] is a twenty-seven-question survey about the pattern of an individual's drinking. (2.4.228)

As part of the Twelve-Step program, James is supposed to answer this survey. In case you hadn't gathered by now, he doesn't deal with rules too well (unless he sets those rules himself), so he defaces the book with his crayons like a real bad boy would.

You should be concentrating on what you're here for, which is getting sober and rebuilding your life. Lilly is a distraction that takes you away from that. (3.2.205)

Joanne tries to explain why male-female interaction is forbidden, especially in relation to James and Lilly, but this just makes James want to see Lilly more. He'll do anything to try and prove people wrong.

At the end of the Session, Sophie asks everyone to join hands. An intimacy has developed and we do so eagerly. (3.2.306)

Okay, this is weird. James adamantly avoids group sessions and lectures, but in this one with his family, he joins in. He doesn't complain or have a single contrary word to say about it. Since when does he do what he's been asked to do? Why is it different this time? Has something changed?

His Father and I were always trying to control him, mainly because he had always been so out of control. (3.3.310)

James has had a problem with rules and authority from a very young age. He doesn't seem to realize that the more he rebels, the <em>more </em>rules are going to be applied to try and control him.

Our jobs here, as stupid and menial as they may be, allow us to pretend that we are, if even for just a few minutes a day, just like other people. (3.4.443)

You could almost say the same about <em>any </em>job, couldn't you? Jobs impose their own unique form of rules and order on your life, and you have to adhere to these rules in order to succeed.