Study Guide

Freak the Mighty Memory and the Past

By Rodman Philbrick

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Memory and the Past

Except later it was Freak who taught me that remembering is a great invention of the mind, and if you try hard enough you can remember anything, whether it happened or not. (1.5)

Have you ever invented a memory so convincing that even you began to think it was real? Well, Freak seems to see this as a good thing. It's kind of like having a good imagination. Is Max convinced?

But like Freak says later in the book, you can remember anything, whether it happened or not. All I'm really sure of is he never hit me with that crutch. (3.23)

Wait, didn't we just hear this? Yeah, that means it's probably important. We're guessing memory will play a crucial role in the plot. And once we get to the end, how are we supposed to interpret these lines? Is Max making up the whole thing?

One thing we don't do, though, we don't talk about my father, good old Killer Kane. Which is fine by me. (12.10)

Max is trying to forget something pretty important, but he won't tell us what. What effect does it have on us as readers to not know the big issue from Max's past?

I jump up and cover my ears, holding my hands real tight. "Don't want to hear it! Don't want to hear it! Don't! Don't! Don't!" (13.32)

Hmmm, probably not the most mature reaction Max could have had to mention of his father, but it's a pretty clear indication that this guy doesn't want to talk about his father or his past.

"I woke up just now worrying that you might wonder why I never mention her. Your mother. You might still be thinking the wrong way on that, and believe what they told you. You being such a tiny little thing when it happened, how could you know the truth of it?" (17.41)

Max's dad is trying to revise the past, it seems. Does it work?

I just sit there like a lump until the sun comes up, trying not to think about things I didn't want to remember. (17.55)

Max has been kidnapped by his dad and now he's locked up in a basement, "trying not to think about things [he] didn't want to think about." We're pretty sure we've seen this scene before. But is this the same kind of hiding Max does in the down under?

Because everything is mixed up and he's doing the same thing to Loretta Lee he did to my mom, choking the life out of her, […] it's like I'm four years old again, peeking out from behind the bedroom door and then running to bang my little fists at him while the light fades from her eyes. (20.5-6)

Memories can be pretty intense. So intense, in fact, that here, Max reverts to when he was a kid.

"They never talk about it," I say. "They don't have to because I can't ever forget it, no matter how much I try." (20.15)

We've finally found out what it is that Max has been trying to forget: his father killed his mother when he was a kid. No wonder he can't forget that. Do you think if he faced the truth, he'd be able to get over it more quickly, or is he doing the right thing by hiding from it?

Remembering is just an invention of the mind. (22.5)

One more time for good measure. But wait, if remembering is an invention of the mind, is it possible that Max is inventing all his memories? Can we trust him as a narrator?

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