Study Guide

I Am the Messenger Courage

By Markus Zusak

Courage

On Wednesday, however, I actually make it out onto the street and head across town. It's nearly midnight when I turn onto Edgar Street. It's dark, and the streetlights there have been rocked. Only one survives, and even that one winks at me. It's light that limps from the globe. (1.5.10)

It's a while before Ed even goes to Edgar Street, let alone does anything about the problem there. We think it's important to see the guy struggling to go a couple times so we don't take the situation lightly. He isn't just playing a game here, because this is real and scary to Ed.

The last hundred meters nearly kill her. I can see the pain tightening on her face. Her bare feet bleed on their way across the balding grass. She almost smiles from the pain— from the beauty of it. She's out of herself. Barefoot. More alive than anyone I've ever witnessed. (1.J.16)

Watching Sophie run is like watching energy itself for Ed. He's never seen anyone quite as courageous or alive as Sophie because she goes all out and runs wild. It seems like Ed wishes he had that kind of bravery in his own life.

I realize it's the sound of a man sobbing. Tonight, however, I don't care. I have to kill him because slowly, almost effortlessly and with complete contempt, this man kills his wife and child every night. And it's me alone, Ed Kennedy, a less than ordinary suburbanite, who has the chance to end it. (2.2.55)

We don't feel one bit for the man on Edgar Street because of what he's done to his wife, but we are interested in the way fear and courage are interlinked. In order for Ed to be brave with his guy, he has to make him scared, whereas before, Ed was the one running for the hills.

I want to throw my miserable, complaining, excuse-making mouth from my face and get on with it. I even corner myself in the widening light of the lounge room. I think, Don't blame it anymore, Ed. Take it. I even move out onto the front porch and see my own limited view of the world. I want to take that world, and for the first time ever, I feel like I can do it. I've survived everything I've had to so far. I'm still standing here. (2.6.6)

Here Ed realizes he's got nerve in his own way, surviving what he has. There are different types of courage, and Ed might not be out-and-proud brave like other guys, but he knows how to muddle through, and that's got to count for something.

"Yes, Marv." I make the answer very clear. "I'm playing." I'm suddenly very in the mood for this year's game. Despite being a physical disaster, I feel stronger than ever, and I'm actually relishing the idea of being hurt some more. Don't ask me why. I don't understand it myself. (3.A.37)

Before the Annual Sledge Game, Ed preps mentally for what's about to come. He's more focused on feeling pain than giving it, but he goes to the game anyway. Yep, we think that's crazy too, but in a weird way Ed is being courageous by facing his fears at the game.

My only worry is that every time I've wanted something to go a certain way in all of this, it's gone the other, designed perfectly to challenge me with the unknown. I want Keith and Daryl to come walking through the door again. I want them to deliver the next card and criticize the Doorman for his smell and for having fleas. I've even left the door unlocked so they can enter my house in a civilized manner. (3.A.22)

Let's face it: Ed's got a weird relationship with Keith and Daryl. They're hit men, and he's afraid of them, but there's also a part of him that wants them in his life. Perhaps that's because he gets to feel empowered somehow after they've left him with another task to complete, or maybe because he likes the challenge. Either way, it's clear that Ed has moved beyond his initial reaction of fear with them.

We're still brothers, and who knows? Maybe one day. One day, I feel certain, we'll get together and remember and tell and speak many things. Things bigger than university and Ingrid. (4.3.36)

Point: Ed. He finally tells Tommy to get real when he pretends they'll be close suddenly. One of the ways Ed grows up in the book is gaining the courage to be honest with his family… well, sort of.

I hope the messages are good, I think, but something tells me this won't be easy. There must be good reason these three were left till last. As well as being my friends, they'll also be the most challenging messages I have to deliver. I can feel it. (4.4.23)

The fact that his friends' names were last means that Ed has been building up the courage for them. So if we were to put that another way, we might say that it was hardest for him to deal with people he truly cares about, because he's so scared in the beginning.

"That looks like a beautiful kid in there," I say. There are no shivers in my voice. This comes as a surprise, giving me the courage to continue. "Well, is she, sir?" (4.8.59)

Even Ed is surprised by his own courage in the situation with Marv and Suzanne's dad because he stands up for his friend like never before. There's a real risk of getting beaten up here (since we just saw Marv take a few punches himself), but there's also a burning desire for Ed to do something more for his friend than play in a soccer game.

"But what he just did in facing you —that was respect. You don't get any more decent or proud than that." Marv shivers and takes a slight sip of his blood. "He knew this would happen, but here he is." Now I get my eyes to step into his. "If you were him, would you have been able to do the same? Would you have faced you?" (4.8.61)

It takes guts to say all this, and even Ed is shocked that he pushes as much as he does here. This is when we get to see just how far Ed has come from being too afraid to even see what's on the card, to defending his friend in the face of danger.

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