Study Guide

Freak the Mighty Isolation

By Rodman Philbrick

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I like it in the down under, got the place all to myself and no fear of Gram sticking her head in the door and saying Maxwell dear, what are you doing? (2.2)

Who needs people when you can sit alone in a basement all day? The down under is kind of like Max's own personal fortress of solitude. Everyone has one, probably, but Max's seems a little extreme.

"I never saw much of your mom after they got married. He made it […] difficult for your mother to have any friends." (5.41)

Max might enjoy being alone and isolated, but his mom experienced a forced sense of isolation. Her husband wouldn't let her have friends or do any normal human adult things. Note to Shmoopers: forced isolation doesn't make for a healthy relationship.

Mostly I just vegetate in the basement and pick my navel, to quote Grim, Mr. Belly Button Lint himself. Freak changes all that. (8.16-17)

Looks like someone might be starting to venture out of their fortress of solitude. Isn't it neat how Max is totally aware that Freak is to thank for his newfound spirit of adventure? Pretty insightful, we think.

I've already decided I'll run away if they do that, I'll go live in the woods somewhere and jump out and scare people. (13.18)

When things get rough, Max's instinct is to run away and be alone. What gives?

[…] but tonight the pond is empty as the moon, as empty as my head. (16.27)

This here is what we call a good old fashion simile. Okay, so Max feels empty inside. Is that because he's always isolated? Or does he keep to himself because he feels empty? Or could it be both?

"I bet they haven't even missed you," he says. "Kept you down in that cellar like an animal, how would they know?" (18.30)

Here's Max's dad being the not-so-smart dude we know him to be. He's claiming that Max's grandparents have forced Max to live in the basement. Not so much, Daddio. Unlike you, who forced your wife to stay away from the world, Max's grandparents are letting him do what he feels comfortable with.

Then he's gliding away, and I hold myself still in case this is a trick and he's really sneaking up behind me to see if I can get my hands loose. (19.19)

Max is alone in a basement—this time, with his murderer dad hovering close by. Do you think the author wrote this scene in a basement to make us think of the down under? Why or why not?

On the way home he goes, "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Just leave me alone," I say. (24.42-43)

Even after all the craziness that's just gone down, Max still isn't super open about things. We guess you can't just change a person. But is Max changed in other ways?

I hid in the down under for days and days and kept the door closed, which is why I missed the funeral and the Fair Gwen going away. (25.2)

After Freak dies, Max goes so far back in his hole that he misses Freak's funeral. What do you think: jerk move? Or was it necessary in order for him to move on later?

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