Study Guide

I Am the Messenger Plot Analysis

By Markus Zusak

Plot Analysis

Exposition

Stick 'Em Up

Ed is at the bank when his life changes. Sure there's a bank robbery while he's there, but the real change is what happens next: He tries to stop the robber from making a run for it. But don't worry—he doesn't get shot or anything—because instead he shoots at the robber. When he misses, the robber is arrested and Ed makes the paper. He's officially a local hero. When he's called to court to testify about how it went down, the robber threatens to kill him. But Ed's as good as dead anyway, considering how boring his life is.

Rising Action

Cards, Anyone?

Ed gets a card in the mail, but it isn't the type your grandma sends on your birthday. Instead it's an Ace of Diamonds with three addresses on it. Ed's not sure who sent it, or what it means, but naturally he goes to check it out. (Wouldn't you?) When he gets to the first address, he sees a man raping his wife; at the second house he finds a lonely old woman.; and at the third he discovers a girl who really wants to make her dad proud when she runs. Hmm…

Ed realizes he's got to deliver a message to each of these people. He hangs out with the old lady who thinks he's her dead husband back in his hey-day (um, okay), and then he gets the girl to run like with wind by ditching her shoes and ramping up her passion. The rapist isn't so easy to handle, but Ed—with a little help from whoever sent him the ace—manages to get him to leave town for good. Ed's life is officially not boring anymore, and adventure and mystery are in the air.

Climax

Know When to Fold 'Em

Feeling pretty good about himself, Ed hangs out with his friends and plays cards until he gets another card in the mail. This time, he's sent on another series of tasks, some as simple as buying an ice cream and others that are more complicated, like discovering his mom cheated on his (now dead) dad and is still having candlelit dinners with the guy.

Ed starts to think about his purpose in life, and what he's doing wasting his time playing cards and driving cabs. He realizes he's lazy, and that he's never left the small town he's from—and if he weren't certain of these things himself, his mom happily breaks them down for him as well. Our main man Ed is officially at a major crossroads.

Falling Action

Hearts on the Line

After conquering (or at least dealing with) the aces of diamonds and clubs, Ed moves on to hearts. This one is by far the hardest. Why? This time he's sent to help out his three best friends, Ritchie, Marv, and Audrey. At first he doesn't know what to do, but eventually Ed figures out that Ritchie is bumming around and can totally do more with his life, Marv has a two-year-old kid that he's never met and could use a hand remedying this situation, and Audrey… well, he's in love with her, and it's time she knows.

Though the Ace of Hearts brings some real challenges, Ed's missions are now starting to directly improve both the lives of the people he's closest to and the relationships he has with them.

Resolution (Denouement)

Ordinary, Shmordinary

Audrey finally lets Ed into her life romantically, but there's still the whole issue of who sent the cards to Ed in the first place. One day Ed finally gets an answer: it's some random guy he's never met. Why would someone do such a thing? He wanted to see if Ed could rise to the occasion, to see if an ordinary guy with nothing really going for him could sacrifice and help others for no reason at all. Ed's confused, to say the least, but the whole experience suddenly comes into focus for him: This whole time Ed hasn't been the messenger—he's been the message.

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