Study Guide

A Million Little Pieces Suffering

By James Frey

Suffering

[Doctor Baker] jerks his hands forward and up and there's an audible crack. Cold white light shoots through my eyes and through my spine and into my feet and back again. My eyes are close but I'm crying. (1.2.149)

Doctor Baker has to break James's nose in order to set it, which proves that sometimes you have to break something in order to get better. (At least, we think that's what it proves. Isn't that what "rock bottom" is all about?)

I can feel blood dripping from the wounds on my face and I can feel my heart beating and I can feel the weight of my life beginning to drop and I realize why dawn is called mourning. (1.4.4)

James needs to learn the definition of homophone, but what is he mourning here? His hard-partying lifestyle that he's had to leave behind? The fact that he's such a mess?

I hate myself.

True. (1.5.201-1.5.202)

Well, that's sad. It's probably one of the main reasons James does drugs—or maybe he hates himself <em>for </em>doing drugs? It's hard to tell. Our guess: it's a big vicious circle of self-loathing, drugs, more self-loathing, and more drugs.

I listen to Larry cry and pound on his pillow and curse God and beg for forgiveness. (1.5.251)

On James's first night in his room, he has to try to sleep while his roommate cries all night long. James isn't the only person suffering in rehab. Everyone is, in his or her own way.

The sander bounces slightly and white electric pain hits my mouth and the sander comes back and holds and pain spreads through my body from the top down and every muscle in my body flexes and I squeeze the [tennis] balls and my eyes start to tear and the hair on the back of my neck stands straight my tooth f***ing hurts like the point of a bayonet is being driven straight through it. The point of a f***ing bayonet. (1.7.266)

This is two sentences, if you weren't counting. James writes about pain and suffering in much the same way he writes about anger: in a frenetic stream of consciousness, which pretty much is the way you think when you're actually going through pain.

It hurts and I deserve it. (2.1.47)

James is talking about a too-hot shower here, but this self-destructive attitude could be applied to almost any of James's harmful actions.

I see the damage and pain of hard years. I see the emptiness and desperation of existence without hope. I see a young life that has been too long. (2.4.505)

James can tell that Lilly is suffering because she's had a hard life, partly as a result of the actions of her abusive mother. If one of the other men had told James this story, he'd probably have laughed, but hearing it from Lilly makes him care for her more.

Shame is a terrible thing. Necessary, but terrible. (3.2.339)

Miles is suffering from shame because of what he's done to his family. Unlike James, who seems to revel in his suffering, Miles doesn't like it… but he's still trying to use it as motivation to get better.

He started using her. His friends started using her. Her heart was broken it had never healed it just broke again. She was smoking crack and using pills. He and his friends used her. (3.2.564)

Lilly has arguably suffered the most out of any character in the book: sold by her parents, abused by her boyfriend, addicted to the worst kinds of drugs imaginable… it just goes on and on. James feels like he can protect her, maybe because she's one of the few people more damaged than he is.

He just screamed and screamed and all that time we didn't know that he was screaming because he hurt. (3.3.451)

James's mother is talking about her son's chronic ear infections, but this line could also double for the way James is crying for help as he's suffering through addiction.