Study Guide

Maniac Magee Abandonment

By Jerry Spinelli

Abandonment

"One day his parents left him with a sitter and took the P&W high-speed trolley into the city. On the way back home, they were on board when the P&W had its famous crash, when the motorman was drunk and took the high trestle over the Schuykill River at sixty miles an hour, and the whole kaboodle took a swan dive into the water." (1.3)

The first abandonment. Is it harsh to say Maniac's parents abandoned him, when there was nothing they could have done about it? Maybe. But that doesn't change the fact that one day Maniac had parents, and the next, he didn't.

"Mr. Beale made a U-turn right there and headed back. Only Mrs. Beale was still downstairs when they walked into the house. She listened to no more than ten seconds' worth of Mr. Beale's explanation before saying to Maniac, 'You're staying here.'" (12.24)

This is the opposite of abandonment—for the first time someone is sticking by Maniac, and he's getting an example of what a family really looks like. Consider our hearts warmed.

"If anybody could survive on the loose, it would be this kid who showed up from Hollidaysburg. Who slept on floors. Who outran dogs." (18.19)

Maniac is uniquely suited to life on the run. But is this because he's been abandoned or is there something special about him already? Would another kid have ended up in foster care, or worse?

"More than anything, Maniac wanted to hug Amanda and tell her it was okay. He wanted to go inside, be with his family, in his house, his room, behind his window. But that wasn't the right thing. The right thing was to make sure the Beales didn't get hurt anymore. He couldn't keep letting them pay such a price for him." (21.8)

Maniac sees abandonment as a legit choice, as a way to fix a problem, make things better. Is this just Maniac's way of letting those who have abandoned him off the hook? Or does he kind of have a point?

"'If you try to make me,' he said, 'I'll just start running.'" (23.22)

If things get tough, the tough get going. Or running. But does this strategy of Maniac's really work that well? Don't the tough actually learn to stick it out?

"The story he told now was not about baseball. It was about parents who were drunk a lot and always leaving him on his own; about being put in classes where they just cut paper and played games all day; about a teacher who whispered to a principal, just outside the classroom door, 'This bunch will never learn to read a stop sign.' Right then and there, as if to make the teacher right, he stopped trying." (27.1)

Maybe this is why Grayson and Maniac are able to stick together: both have been abandoned in different ways. Listen up, Maniac: unless you want to end up like Grayson, you'd better find a home, stat.

"Five days later the old man was dead." (31.14)

Abandonment doesn't have to be purposeful—this is the second time that Maniac is abandoned by the death of someone he loves. (Way to go and die, Grayson.)

"Maniac might have taken off, but he found himself clung to and clutched by the two little urchins." (34.44)

Maniac finally finds something strong enough to stop the abandonment urge: two little boys. It's not easy to break habits, and sometime we need outside forces to help us do the right thing.

"When he asked himself why he didn't just drop it, drop them, the answer was never clear. It wasn't so much that he wanted to stay as that he couldn't go. In some vague way, to abandon the McNab boys would be to abandon something deep in himself." (40.10)

Maniac finally acknowledges that abandonment doesn't just hurt the person you abandon—it hurts you, too. Looks like someone has learned a Very Important Life Lesson.

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