What are the finsterwallies in "Maniac Magee"?

What are the finsterwallies in "Maniac Magee"?

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Jonathan Beutlich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The answer to this question can be found in chapter 5 of Maniac Magee. This is another chapter that is dedicated to establishing the mythical figure that is Maniac. One of the neighborhood boys, Arnold Jones, was unfortunate enough to have been caught outside of Finterwald's house with a group of high school boys nearby. The high school boys thought it would be great fun to toss Jones over Finsterwald's fence. Finsterwald is basically the neighborhood's resident old mean guy. Every kid is terrified of this man, so when Jones finds himself on the wrong side of the fence, he begins trembling with fear. His teeth start chattering, and his entire body begins to shake uncontrollably. This uncontrollable shaking due to Finsterwald fear has been nicknamed the "finsterwallies."

And getting louder—yes—chattering teeth. Arnold Jones's teeth. They're chattering like snare drums. And now, as if his mouth isn't big enough to hold the chatter, the rest of his body loins in. First it's a buzz - like trembling, then the shakes, and finally it's as if every bone inside him is clamoring to get out. A high- schooler squawks: "He's got the finsterwallies!"

Maniac then calmly climbed over the fence to help Jones out, but Jones was so scared at that point that he passed out. Maniac kindly carried him and set him down on Finsterwald's front steps. When Jones finally woke up, he ran away from there as if his life depended on it.

When Arnold came to and discovered this, he took off like a horsefly from a swatter.

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Michael Foster eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Finsterwallies are the shakes caused by intense fear. The name comes from "Finsterwalds," the name of the family living in a house approached in fear by the neighborhood kids.  Arnold Jones was thrown over into the Finsterwalds' backyard.  He had such intense fear that he began to shake (this shaking later became known as the "finsterwallies").  He was rescued by Maniac Magee (who put him on the Finsterwlds' front steps, which was just as bad).

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