Study Guide

I Am the Cheese Isolation

By Robert Cormier

Isolation

He wondered what secrets [his mother] harbored, what dark knowledge she kept hidden within her. Is this what made her sad, what kept her in her room during the day, closeted in the house all the time, seldom venturing into the outside world? (13.4)

Adam thinks his mom might keep herself isolated because of the secrets she had to keep. What else adds to her isolation? Is isolation ever really a choice?

"Sure, kid," he said, "we aim to please." The weird thing is that he didn't look at me at all. I mean, I could have had two heads or been carrying a rifle or anything and he wouldn't have cared. (14.5)

Adam doesn't say anything about being lonely in this encounter with the cop, but the sentiment seems to be there. When you walk into a room and no one acknowledges your presence, it's kind of a downer. As much as Adam has tried to avoid conversations with strangers throughout his trip, he doesn't want to be invisible either.

He was surrounded by nothingness, here in the bed and here in his life. What life – whose life? (15.4)

Is there a difference between "nothing" and "nothingness"? Is Adam also surrounded by nothing?

I pedal furiously now, not because I want to catch up with them but because this road is deserted and I want to reach a better road or highway as soon as possible. I feel more vulnerable than ever. (18.5)

Does Adam feel more vulnerable when he is isolated, like he is here on his bike ride, or when he's surrounded by people?

I hate him. Not only for stealing my bike but for turning his back on his mother. He has a mother and he turns his back on her. [... ] I stay there, breathing hard, waiting my chance, not wanting to think of my mother, holding off the anguish, the loneliness. (27.5)

This reminds us of those scenes in movies where someone who just got dumped is walking through the park and suddenly all they see is couples being super mushy romantic with each other. Seeing people in relationships that you crave (here, a son and his mother) can really make you feel like you're alone in the world.

The agony of it all was the secrecy, knowing that he was pledged forever to tell no one – not even Amy. (28.2)

We've all found ourselves thinking, "no one understands me!" or "no one cares!" Usually we're being a little dramatic, right? Well, for Adam the words "no one" are literal and unchangeable.

Would his secret keep him forever apart from other people, create a chasm between them? Could he never be intimate with anyone else again? (28.11)

Intimacy doesn't seem to be Adam's strong suit. Sure, he formed a connection with Amy (thanks in large part to her go-get-'em attitude), but he never really befriends anyone else. The only intimacy we really see is with his parents, and now they're gone.

I envy him and I don't even know him. I think about the friends he must have and his family. I feel alone. (29.7)

Adam doesn't spend much time comparing himself to other people (other than Amy Hertz, but that contrast couldn't be more clear). When he finally does, he realizes he is even more alone. Also, could the fact that Adam is jealous of the service station attendant's family indicate that somewhere deep down, he knows that his parents are dead?

There's something strange in the stare, as if I am alien, a visitor from another planet, another galaxy. (29.51)

Adam gets strange glances throughout the book. What effect does this have on us as readers? Is it a clue to unravel the mystery, or just a way of adding to the unsettling tone?

I am the cheese. (31.39)

In "The Farmer in the Dell" children's song, the cheese "stands alone." The fact that Adam keeps going back to a song near and dear to his dead parents only makes him feel more alone. Check out "What's Up With The Title?" for more on this.