Study Guide

A Million Little Pieces Violence

By James Frey

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My front four teeth are gone, I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut. (1.1.1)

No, this isn't how Frey looked after Oprah got done with him; this is from the first paragraph of the novel, and it shows us that our narrator is a guy who has seen his fair share of violence.

He reaches out and he grips my wrists and he drags me along the floor. (1.2.70)

This is how it's done in rehab. It's not a very warm welcome. That is all. 

I scream. I see a bed. I grab the end of the bed and I lift it and I flip it and the mattress goes and I grab the simple metal frame and I lift it and I throw it down with everything everything everything and it snaps but it's not enough so I stomp it stomp it stomp it and it snaps again again again and there are only broken bars and bolts and screws and I'm screaming and it feels good and I'm just getting started. (1.6.75)

Even though James has already slammed Roy against a wall, he's still consumed by a violent rage—so violent that he can't even bring himself to use punctuation to describe it. 

You have very low self-esteem. You're confrontational and tend to be aggressive, you sometimes react to confrontation with violence. (2.2.99)

Tell us something we don't know, Joanne. We're surprised they needed a test to figure this out about James. Haven't they been paying attention to how he's been acting this whole time?

I breathe and I shake and I can feel it coming and rage and need and confusion regret horror shame and hatred fuse into a perfect Fury a great and beautiful and terrible and perfect Fury the Fury and I can't stop the Fury or control the Fury I can only let the Fury come come come come come. Let it motherf***ing come. The Fury has come. I see a tree and I go after it. Screaming punching kicking clawing tearing ripping dragging pulling wrecking punching screaming punching screaming punching screaming. (2.3.273-2.3.274)

That's only four sentences of Fury, folks. And what did that tree do to James? He gets so angry, he has to take it out on nature. Why does he have so much trouble controlling the Fury? What's it all about? Anyway, we hope he doesn't get a splinter.

I'm Jack the man-hammer. I'll smash all of you to f***ing bits. (2.4.40)

We find out that Roy suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (as it was known at the time) when he gets revved up into a screaming, violent rage. Do you think this actually happened?

With the thumb and forefinger of my right hand, I star pulling at the nail of the second toe of my left foot. (3.2.376)

This is a really bizarre scene in which James pulls his own toenail off, rinses off his foot, and then puts his shoes back on and goes on as though nothing happened (and as though it doesn't even hurt to walk). This is one way he's found to vent his Fury, which has raised up after meeting with Parents, although in this case he seems to be more angry at himself than at them for a change. Maybe he's <em>always </em>been mad at himself. We should note, too, that pulling your own nail off looks an awful lot like a symptom of the same self-loathing that has probably caused James's drug abuse in the first place.

[Mother] reared back to slap me. I saw it coming, so when she swung I grabbed her hand […] She couldn't hit me because I had her arms, so she tried to kick me. As she did, I let go of her hands and she lost her balance and fell to the floor and she started crying, crying really hard. (3.3.287)

Talk about sadistic. James drives his mother to violence and then uses his strength to restrain her. He also manipulates her angry kicking so that she'll fall. He even says right after this that "part of [him] still thinks it's funny" (3.3.291). Yeesh.

I press. Into the soft flesh. I look into the man's eye. I let him know that I could kill him. (3.4.275)

This is one of the last times James really rages at someone, but he justifies it by the fact that he's defending Lilly's reputation. He basically strangles the man who talks about what happened to Lilly. Even though that man was telling the truth, James doesn't feel it was his story to tell. 

Whether they will admit it or not, all men love fighting. (4.1.336)

All the men <em>in rehab</em> definitely love fighting—at least that's what we can assume based on the number of people who crowd around the TV when boxing is on. Is fighting an addiction of its own?

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