Study Guide

I Am the Messenger Fear

By Markus Zusak

Fear

My heart begins to suffocate me. It keeps rising until I can taste it. I can almost feel it beating on my tongue. I tremble, pull myself together, then tremble again. (1.5.24)

It's easy to judge Ed for not doing anything when he sees the woman being raped, but the truth is, we understand that he's scared when he sees the violence on Edgar Street. Yet Ed doesn't do anything to help the poor woman once he leaves the scene either. He's just too scared.

At this point, you can probably tell what I've decided to do about the whole Edgar Street situation. Or at least you'll know if you're anything like me. Cowardly. Meek. Positively weak. Of course, in my infinite wisdom, I'm choosing to leave it for a while. You never know, Ed. It might just work itself out. (1.7.1)

Trying to convince himself to make it better, Ed tells himself that the situation will just work itself out, though in reality he knows he's just afraid to do anything. Why does he beat himself up so much about it if he won't do anything? At what point does he decide to act instead of be afraid?

In the first hour of play, I look at Audrey and know that I'm in nervous love with her. Nervous because I don't know what to do sometimes. I don't know what to say. What can I tell her when I feel the hunger rise in me? How would she react? (1.7.20)

So there's the type of fear that Ed feels at Edgar Street, and then there's the type he gets when he tries to confront his feelings about Audrey. In the first type, he knows what is right and wrong, but that's not the case with his feelings. He doesn't know if he's just being a scaredy cat, or if it's better left unsaid.

The fear has tied itself around my feet, and I know there's nothing I can do. Not tonight. Not ever, it seems. If I try to move, I'll trip over it. I expect the girl to scream at me. Something like, "But you promised me, Ed! You promised!" She says nothing, though. I think she understands how physically powerful her father is and how scrawny I am. All she does is stumble over to me and hug me again. (1.J.44)

When Ed revisits Edgar Street, he sees the little girl but he still can't go in to help the mom—he's just too afraid. It's a familiar scene to us, and we have to watch him wait a few different times before he does anything at all. Why do you think the author show us this scene (and so many like it) again and again?

I wonder which card will end up in my letterbox next. It's the spades that worry me most, I think. The Ace of Spades scares me—always has. I try not to think about it. I feel watched. (2.4.48)

Here Ed confesses that he thinks of the suits in different ways. We talk more about this idea in the "Symbols" section, but we still think it's worth mentioning here. Ed's super fearful of spades because it's the trump card. Yet the Ace of Spades doesn't prove as difficult as the Hearts, which shows us that what's toughest for Ed are feelings.

I see his eyes and make sure not to meet them, and I put my fist onto his nose to eliminate any vision he might have had. He's hurt, but I keep going. I need to make sure he can't move by the time I'm done with him. I can smell how scared he is. It pours out of him. It reaches up and stuffs itself into my nose. (2.Q.17)

Poor Gavin Rose—first his bro beats on him, and then Ed. Even though we know Gavin is no saint himself (and Ed is only doing this so he can bond with his older brother), we feel for the guy who is scared here. Wouldn't you be if someone was beating you up?

But will it end with this? I ask myself. Will it let go of me? Already, I know that all of this will stay with me forever. It'll haunt me, but I also fear it will make me feel grateful. I say fear because at times I really don't want this to be a fond memory until it's over. I also fear that nothing really ends at the end. Things just keep going as long as memory can wield its ax, always finding a soft part in your mind to cut through and enter. (4.A.33)

Enter the Ace of Hearts. If Ed thought the others were tricky, he's in for a surprise, because this time the challenges hit closer to home. Ed's fears change from being scared for his life to not being sure about where he'll stand after he helps his friends out.

Afraid because I don't want my own funeral to be that forlorn and empty. I want words at my funeral. But I guess that means you need life in your life. (4.2.98)

At his dad's grave, Ed tells us some deep stuff. He's worried about what his life amounts to if all he ever does is act like his dad. It's a sad thought, but also one that scares him—hopefully into action.

"She doesn't want to love you," I tell him. "She doesn't want to love anyone. She's had a rough life, Audrey. The only people she ever loved she hated." I get some flashbacks of when we were growing up. She was hurt a lot, and she vowed it wouldn't continue that way. She wouldn't let it. (4.3.92)

Spoiler alert. Ed is shocked when Simon (Audrey's current flame) tells him this. Audrey loves him? It looks like Ed's not the only one afraid of what will happen if the truth comes out. Simon's words remind us that everyone is afraid sometimes, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

I didn't come this far only to fail the ones I've known longest and care for most. I run through them again, from Edgar Street to Ritchie. Afraid. Afraid. The messages give me courage. (4.7.17)

Finally Ed pushes past his fear. He's still scared of what will happen to his friends, but now he's willing to face that fear for his friends. This is one a-ha moment for our main guy, and for us too. It makes us wonder what fears we have that we should conquer.

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