Study Guide

I Am the Messenger Disappointment

By Markus Zusak

Disappointment

I can't bring myself to say it because I still think of Edgar Street. I realize that for every good message, there will always be one that will agonize me. So I'm thankful for this. It's a nice day, and I like this girl. (1.10.32)

Compared to Edgar Street, any challenge seems easy, but it still plagues Ed. He can't help but be disappointed with himself for standing by while a woman goes through terror night after night. Is he fair to place such a high standard for himself?

He calmly eats the crust, half swallows, and says, "Oh, do stop whining, Ed! We all have our duties here. We all suffer. We all endure our setbacks for the greater good of mankind." (2.3.34)

Daryl and Keith lay it on thick for Ed, and they're very much of the "get over it" mentality. It's interesting to us that they claim this is somehow helping mankind because Ed wasn't even thinking about anything but his own personal failures.

I stagger out of the car and slip toward the flyscreen door. There's a feeling in me that resembles complete and utter desolation. It trips through me. No. It zigzags. I don't care that I'm a messenger anymore. The guilt of it handles me. I shrug it off, but always it climbs back on. No one said this was going to be easy. (2.3.2)

In fact no one said anything about what would happen on the journey at all. Ed is always getting down on himself for how he's messed up and what he's done wrong, but the truth of the matter is, he helps out people as much as he disappoints them in the book (if not more).

"How would you feel if you had to be somewhere right now and didn't know how to get there?" He examines the question. He seems to be over the girl for the moment.

"Like missing the Annual Sledge Game?"

I allow him that much. "Okay."

"Well…" He thinks with all of him, rubbing his rough hand over the blond stubble on his face. That's how important the game is to him. "I'd always be imagining what's happening there, knowing I can't change it because I'm so far away." (2.6.42-45)

Ed and Marv are talking but about two different things here. Marv is concentrating on how important the Annual Sledge Game is, and Ed doesn't want to disappoint his buddy. On the other hand, all Ed can think about is the messages he's supposed to deliver, even if he doesn't understand how and why.

The guilt of this holds her down momentarily. It appears to be there constantly. Never far away, despite her love for them. I realize that nothing belongs to her anymore and she belongs to everything. (2.J.8)

Angie's got three kids and no support, so no wonder she's tired and overwhelmed, though that doesn't stop her from blaming herself for everything. She shows Ed that it's not just him whose life hasn't turned out the way he thought.

She's shaking her head at me now. I don't see it but feel the disappointment as I glue my eyes to the desk. I stare for a long time and actually feel upset that I've let this woman down. A few minutes later. I hear it. (3.3.38)

Ed imagines this in a dream, but it might as well be anyone in his life looking at him. After all, his mom makes no secret of the fact that he's one big old disappointment, so the woman could easily represent her. We get the sense that it isn't her or Audrey or anyone specific though, that it's more like it's everyone he's ever met.

But soon I understand why I feel like this— I deserve something. I'm going around fixing people's lives, even just for a moment or two. I'm hurting people that need hurting , when inflicting pain goes against everything that comes naturally to me. (3.4.58)

When he's with Audrey, Ed begins thinking about whether she could love him, and if he is owed that somehow. Yet again, he reads the situation wrong and kisses her before he can stop himself. It looks like that disappointing feeling won't be going away any time soon.

"You might not be the only one getting aces in the mail. Did you ever think of that?" (3.8.88)

We're pretty sure he's never thought of that. Love it or hate it, Ed is usually thinking of himself, and that's why he's sent on the missions in the first place. It seems like he's even disappointing the people sending him to deliver the messages in some ways too.

He said we'd just pack up and go, and look where we are, Ed. We're still here. I'm here. You're here, and just like your old man, you're all promise, Ed, and no results. You"— she points at me with venom—" you could be as good as any of them. (3.10.79)

We all know that Ed's mom has had her share of disappointment when it comes to her son, but her slams on the porch make it clear that a lot of them stem from his old man. It's hard for Ed to hear, but this is one of the things that makes him rethink the course his life is on.

Suzanne works part-time. She hates her father. She hates herself for never fighting. She regrets everything. "But I love Melinda," she says. "She's the one piece of beauty among all this ugly." Suzanne sits next to her daughter and catches me in the mirror. "She makes me worth it, you know?" (4.9.23)

Once Ed stops being so self-centered, he figures out that there are regrets all around him. Take his buddy Marv and the way he handled Suzanne getting pregnant. Ed helps out his buddy before it's too late, but he also learns a valuable lesson about life: just because something didn't turn out the way you planned, doesn't mean it's all bad or it's too late to start trying.

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