Study Guide

Ritchie in I Am the Messenger

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It's hard to describe Ritchie without making him sound a little pathetic. As Ed says, Ritchie is:

[…] always quiet, sporting his laughable tattoo on his right arm. He sips on his longneck beer from start to finish and touches the whiskers that seem glued in patches on his man-boyish face. (1.2.6)

Maybe it's just us, but if all one of our closest friends had to say about us was how we drank really slowly and had a bad tattoo, we might re-think some things.

But in Ed's defense, Ritchie doesn't have much in his life to talk about. Sure Ed doesn't have much going for him either and generally wastes away his life, but Ritchie is even worse—not only does he not have a job, but he also has no desires. Yikes. This is important to the book, though, because it draws our attention to the fact that though inclined toward laziness, Ed is still more accomplished than Ritchie. At least Ed has a job.

Aside from playing cards with his friends, Ritchie doesn't really do much until the end of the novel after Ed doles out some tough love… and even then Ritchie really just talks about doing something.

Wanting All…?

When Ritchie's name comes up, Ed is confused. With strangers, it was easy to get involved for a microsecond and then walk away, but with his friend, it's a lot more complicated. Ed finally realizes that these messages aren't about buying lights or reading a book, though—they're about truth. The only problem with this is that Ritchie's truth isn't so exciting. Ed confides to us that he tries:

[…] to imagine his face as he sits there, listening. I remember Christmas Eve and Ritchie's words. I don't feel like going home tonight. I see the eyes that dragged themselves toward me, and I see now that anything would be better than sitting alone in his kitchen. (4.5.13)

Aw, poor Ritchie. He's all alone and doesn't have anything going for him, and though he doesn't exactly try to do anything to improve his situation, he also clearly wishes things were different.

It might be easy for Ed to realize that his friend has no ambitions or achievements to speak of, but it doesn't make it any less sad. The real zinger comes when Ritchie and Ed are talking about life, and Ed asks his buddy what he wants from his:

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

Ouch. It sounds like somebody's pretty depressed, doesn't it?

Even though Marv's journey is really touching with his kid, and Audrey's is exciting because we're cheering for her and Ed to get together, Ritchie's strikes a powerful chord. It's heartbreaking and emotional because there is no quick fix-it button for Ed to push, and of all the characters, when the book ends it's Ritchie who seems to stand on the least solid ground.

Though Ritchie eventually decides to start looking for a job, we never see him land one. Sure there's the promise of it, but with the other characters, we get to see their lives dramatically changed. It is important that Richie doesn't get the happy ending that other folks find because it reminds us as readers that transformation is a process, something that has to be invested and re-invested in time and again in order to realize change. We get this message loud and clear because Ritchie is still a work in progress when the book closes, and we know that the only way he'll find his happy ending is by continuing to work hard on himself and his life.

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