In I Am The Messenger, why is Ed Kennedy useless?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ed Kennedy introduces himself, succinctly and rather incongruously during a bank robbery, by telling the reader:

My full name’s Ed Kennedy. I’m nineteen. I’m an underage cabdriver. I’m typical of many of the young men you see in this suburban outpost of the city—not a whole lot of prospects or...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Ed Kennedy introduces himself, succinctly and rather incongruously during a bank robbery, by telling the reader:

My full name’s Ed Kennedy. I’m nineteen. I’m an underage cabdriver. I’m typical of many of the young men you see in this suburban outpost of the city—not a whole lot of prospects or possibility. That aside, I read more books than I should, and I’m decidedly crap at sex and doing my taxes. Nice to meet you.

Ed’s life is fairly routine: he plays cards a few nights a week with Audrey, Marv, and Ritchie; has a smelly old dog named the Doorman; lives in a cheap shack. Decidedly aware that his life is going nowhere fast, he lists his achievements as such:

Cabdriver—and I’d funked my age at that. (You need to be twenty.)

No real career.

No respect in the community.

Nothing.

Ed notes that:

If nothing else, I can lay claim to the title of Youngest Cabdriver in these parts—a taxi-driving prodigy. That’s the kind of anti-achievement that gives structure to my life.

Ed is in love with Audrey, one of his best friends, but she refuses to love him. From a family that was “one of those beat-the-crap-out-of-each-other situation,” Ed thinks that “she loved them, and all they ever did was hurt her.” Until the playing cards intervene, he doesn’t really attempt to help her, aside from loving her silently.

Ed’s mother thinks that he’s not worth much. She constantly insults him and belittles him even though he’s the only one of his siblings who stayed. Eventually, during a charged confrontation, she reveals that that’s the reason she hates him:

“Yes, you’re here—and that’s exactly it!” She holds her arms out. “Look at this dump. The house, the town, everything.” The voice is dark. “And your father—he promised me that one day we’d leave this place. He said we’d just pack up and go, and look where we are, Ed. We’re still here. I’m still 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. As good as Tommy, even. . . . But you’re still here and you’ll still be here in fifty years.” She sounds so cold. “And you’ll have achieved nothing.”

However useless he may appear at times, Ed Kennedy begins to make something of his life because of the playing cards. At the end of the book, he realizes that he is not the messenger of the cards, but rather the message itself: that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, if only they try.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team