In Freak the Mighty, why did Max refer to Loretta as "a damsel who caused distress"? In the book "Freak the Mighty," why does Max refer to Loretta Lee as "a damsel who caused distress?"

Expert Answers

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

Chapter 11 in Rodman Philbrick's novel Freak the Mighty is entitled "The Damsel of Distress," which implies that, rather than someone who needs rescuing, the damsel is the cause of distress. The damsel being referred to is Loretta Lee, the woman whose purse Max and Kevin found after their nemesis, Tony D., and his gang stuffed it down a sewer drain. Kevin is fascinated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table—he even calls his mom The Fair Guinevere in honor of the legendary character (and because her name is Gwen). He decides that he and Max can go on quests like the knights of old, to right the wrongs of the world.

Their first damsel in distress is Loretta Lee, but she becomes more of a damsel of distress because she recognizes Max. She knew his father, Killer Kane, and that causes Max trouble later on in the novel. In chapter 11, she encourages Iggy, her boyfriend, to fight Max, but Iggy refuses because he doesn't want Killer Kane finding out he beat up his son.

Because Loretta involves Iggy in her conviction that she knows Max, the boys get trapped inside their apartment for a time. They only wanted to return the purse and leave, but Iggy forces them to stay for longer than they'd like. If Loretta had just accepted the purse and kept quiet, they would have been able to do their good deed and forget about the encounter.

When Killer Kane ties Max up, Loretta realizes he has crossed a line and goes to free Max. In the process, Killer Kane finds her and begins choking her. This causes Max to remember the incident when he was four years old, when his father killed his mother. He does his best to get his father off Loretta and tells his father he remembers him killing his mother. So, in this novel, Loretta causes some distress, but she also relieves some distress (while in the process, uncovering distressing blocked memories).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is a great question, and a great play on words. In chapter 10, Max and Kevin begin a "quest" after finding a purse in the storm sewer. Kevin decides it must belong to a "damsel in distress," a woman in trouble, and the two boys set out to return the purse to its rightful owner, Loretta.

The title of chapter 11, however, is "The Damsel OF Distress." As we find out in that chapter, and also later in the story, Loretta is indeed the cause of much trouble. Through her, Max's father, after his release from jail, finds a place to hide after kidnapping his son.

On the other hand, it is Loretta and her boyfriend Iggy who eventually help Max to escape, although it almost costs Loretta her life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial