Study Guide

Freak the Mighty Family

By Rodman Philbrick

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Gram and Grim, bless their pointed little heads, they're my mother's people, her parents. (1.3)

By calling his grandparents his mother's people, it's almost like Max is distancing himself from them. As if they don't belong to him and he doesn't belong to them. Why aren't they his people? Does this attitude change at all over the course of the book?

Which is the way he always talked about my father, who married his dear departed daughter and produced, eek eek, Maxwell. Grim never says my father's name, just Him, like his name is too scary to say. (1.11)

A picture of Max's family is starting to take shape, and it's pretty clear that is not The Brady Bunch. If you have to refer to your son-in-law the same way you'd refer to Voldemort, you know you're in trouble.

The dads are getting drunk and having their cookouts, and the moms are trying to keep all the brats from blowing their precious little pinkies off with cherry bombs. (6.1-2)

In this passage, Max is describing other families. What does this tell us about how he views his own family? We'll give you a hint: contrast!

Next thing he's clearing his throat and coughing into his fist and Gram is looking at the two of us and she gets this Gram-like glow, like this is how it's supposed to be […] with the family getting all gooey and sentimental. (8.8)

This isn't the first—or last—time that Max speaks disdainfully about family. Where else do we see it? And why do you think he does it?

"That stuff about my father was true," Freak says, studying his fingernails and acting real cool again […] "I know he ran away because of me." (12.6)

We wish the bonding moment would come under different circumstances, but Max and Freak share the unfortunate fact of having absent fathers. How are their fathers similar? How are they different?

Just to prove what a jerk he is, I tie up the laces and that makes Gram happy. (12.18)

As much as Max tries to distance himself from his grandparents, we're pretty sure he still cares about them. Maybe the loner thing isn't all a big act, but it certainly doesn't define him. Max knows what's really important in life.

"I have an obligation," he's saying. "A man has to protect his family."

"Not with a gun!" Gram yells. (14.19)

Uh oh. A father asking for a gun? This sounds eerily familiar. But how are Grim's and Killer Kane's reasons for having a gun different? Should Grim be more careful?

"You know how many Christmas Eves I've been deprived of my own blood kin? Now is that fair, to do that to a man?" (16.19)

Really, Killer Kane? Really? What do you think: does he really miss his son, or is he just playing the victim card?

"Now, your grandparents say you're nothing but a dysfunctional retard, but no kin of mine is a retard, and that's a fact." (17.18)

Derogatory language aside, what does this comment tell us about Kane's views on family?

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