Study Guide

I Am the Cheese Versions of Reality

By Robert Cormier

Versions of Reality

It's hazy – just a series of impressions. (2.1)

If Adam's memories are only a series of impressions – meaning nothing is really specific or particular – is it possible for him to truly know what happened to him in the past? If not, can we really consider his past a reality?

Anyway, he was feeling much better, and he didn't even care if feeling better was only an illusion. (8.2)

Here Paul's different versions of reality work to his advantage, helping him feel better. Just picture yourself relaxing in your favorite tranquil spot and you'll see what we mean.

He had two birth certificates, two birthdays. Crazily, he thought, Was I born twice? (12.7)

Adam's world has been turned upside down to the point that he actually wonders whether he was born twice. He can no longer trust the reality he once knew, so nothing is too odd to be possible.

It belonged to the world of adults, and adults often did things, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes beyond comprehension, but they were allowed to do them simply because they were adults. They needed no other reason. (13.11)

Kids experience a different reality than adults. That's why our parents so often make us do things that seem insane – or don't let us do things that seem perfectly reasonable. As kids, we can't see the logic.

He was tired of pretending that nothing had happened, that the second birth certificate didn't exist, that he had not listened to that phone call. He was tired of faking it, being a fake. (22.24)

Adam is the only person living in his reality at this moment, and he knows it's not real.

I sat there looking at the clipping and thought, I'm dead. I've already died. (23.27)

Everyone in Blount, New York, thinks Adam's family has been killed because of the fake headline published in the newspaper there. To their former neighbors, their death is a reality. How strange that Adam and his parents are alive when, in another reality, they are not.

His father's voice was buoyant, eager – and Adam suddenly realized, with a chill, the truth: his father was playing the game, not trusting the walls, acting as if no phone call had been received from Mr. Grey. His face was still haggard and his eyes wary and haunted and the bright enthusiastic voice was a sharp contrast. (28.61)

Adam's father seems accustomed and resigned to this game of multiple realities. Although all three of the Farmers know what's going on, they still have to pretend – for their own safety – that they live in a safe, secure reality where nothing is wrong.

It is amazing to me how much the place has changed since last year – the cabin seems or rather <em>feels</em> as if it has been neglected for years and years. I think of how fast decay moves in and it makes me shiver. (29.4)

We perceive reality through our senses, right? But what about that sixth sense: hunches or intuition? Adam smells, tastes, touches, hears, and sees many things throughout his journey, but much of what we know about him comes from the way he feels.

Rutterburg is deserted, not a soul in sight, as if everyone has been wiped out by a science-fiction holocaust. (31.3)

It's kind of a shock to read the words "science fiction" and remember that Adam lives in the same world as we do. In the reality of <em>I Am the Cheese</em>, everything is this-worldly – based on human emotion and suffering.

I know that my mother is dead. I have knowledge that she is dead. I don't know how I know but I do. (31.26)

Even though Adam is in a different world in his mind, he still knows that his mother is dead, in the "real" world. Is this evidence that there is some objective, universal reality out there that's independent of our experience of it?