Study Guide

I Am the Messenger Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Markus Zusak

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

Just prior to the bank holdup, I'd been taking stock of my life. Cabdriver—and I'd funked my age at that. (You need to be twenty.) No real career. No respect in the community. Nothing. I'd realized there were people everywhere achieving greatness while I was taking directions from balding businessmen called Derek and being wary of Friday-night drunks who might throw up in my cab or do a runner on me. (1.2.14)

Can you believe this guy? He describes himself to us as a loser who is just waiting for life to happen. It's no wonder no one else gives him a little respect—Ed isn't really living life, he's just going about his life with lackluster enthusiasm.

He has sex with her and the bed cries out in pain. It creaks and wails and only I can hear it. Christ, it's deafening. Why can't the world hear? I ask myself. Within a few moments I ask it many times. Because it doesn't care, I finally answer, and I know I'm right. It's like I've been chosen. But chosen for what? I ask. The answer's quite simple: To care. (1.6.33)

In some ways Ed is the perfect guy to care about these people because he knows what it's like for no one to care about you. Think about it: He's got his dog and his cab and that's about it.

"Would you like a coffee, too, Jimmy?" I ask myself. "Don't mind if I do," I reply. "Don't mind at all," and I laugh again, feeling every bit like a true messenger. (1.8.60)

Ed jumps into the role of messenger faster than he really thinks it through. He doesn't care why this old lady calls him Jimmy, or that it's weird how people seem to be expecting him. Instead Ed feels important and needed for the first time in his life.

Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are. (2.6.7)

Here Ed sees Lua and Marie kiss while watching their kids dance around with the new lights he bought them. It's so simple, and yet so important because Ed realizes he has nothing even remotely close to the joy they have. Yet it also makes him appreciate the love and beauty in people everywhere.

There are people everywhere, but nowhere. In each black space I find, I think I locate someone, but each time, the darkness thickens and that's all there is. Darkness. (3.K.32)

Okay, okay, this is really happening to Ed in the movie theater, but we like to think of it as a metaphor. He can't see all around him because he's not even sure who is in charge of his life anymore.

"It's been a great day," she tells me, and I can't help but agree. It has. It hits me that all along I thought I was doing this old lady a favor by spending Christmas Day with her. Walking out again in my casual black suit, I realize it's the opposite. (4.3.76)

Aw. It's touching and raw when Ed spends time with lonely old Milla. And not just because she's a sweet little old lady—it's also because she's a safe person for Ed to learn how to feel close to someone with, to practice accepting love and appreciation from.

"Ed?" Ritchie says later. We're still standing in the water. "There's only one thing I want."

"What's that, Ritchie?"

His answer is simple. "To want." (4.5.101-103)

Ouch. Most of us know what we want to be when we grow up, or at least have some dreams for where we want to go to college, but not Ritchie. He has no desires in life, which makes it super hard to help him.

I'm alive, I think. I won. I feel freedom for the first time in months, and an air of contentedness wanders next to me all the way home. It even remains as I walk through the front door, kiss the Doorman, and make us some coffee in the kitchen. (5.the end.7)

After all the messages have been delivered, Ed thinks back on the whole experience. But why doesn't he know if he's alive? It's a head scratcher to be sure, because that's not the first place our minds would jump to after our mission was complete. Yet it's fitting for Ed, whose life is so pathetic that even he questions it.

Eventually, I manage to speak again. "Am I real?"

He barely even thinks about it. He doesn't need to. "Look in the folder," he says. "At the end. See it?" In large scrawled letters on the blank side of a cardboard beer coaster, it's written. His answer is written there in black ink. It says, Of course you're real— like any thought or any story. It's real when you're in it. (5.the folder.19-20)

Ed begins to question whether he truly exists if his entire life can be contained in one folder by some random guy, which seems like a pretty legit concern to us. What do you think? Is Ed real? Is his story really his, or is he just a pawn in a much larger game that he doesn't control?

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