We need to remember the kind of background that Max has come from before the start of the novel to understand why he has such a low perception of himself. Max is practically a recluse in the novel because of the history he has experienced thanks to his mother being killed by his father and the way that he suffered abused from his father. Because of this extremely troubled background, Max is shown to be a very confused young boy. He has inherited his father's physique, and this leads people to fear his huge size, and he easily becomes dominated by his emotions. He is shown to be a victim of his past, as he is a product of the trauma that has made up his background. It is this trauma and history that leads him to studying in classes with people with learning disabilities, even though he is shown to be a boy he is incredibly pure of heart and valiant. Max thinks he is "dumb" therefore as a result of the kind of background he has suffered and the trauma he experienced as a young child.