Why does everyone call Jeffrey "Maniac" in the book Maniac Magee?  

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Kristian Dach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Maniac Magee gets his nickname after his feats have all the kids at school talking about him:

Nobody knows who said it first, but somebody must have: “Kid’s gotta be a maniac.”

And somebody else must have said: “Yeah, reg’lar maniac.”

No one knows his real name before they give him his nickname, so it is easy for all the kids in both East and West End to forget he may have had any other.

Maniac is named by the community, and he doesn’t like it. He would prefer to be Jeffrey because it’s the only thing he has left from his parents, but almost everyone still calls him Maniac.

The few exceptions are those who become like family to him—most notably the Beales and Grayson. The one time Mrs. Beale calls him Maniac, he tells her:

“I’m Jeffrey. You know me.” Because he was afraid of losing his name, and with it the only thing he had left from his mother and father.

Mrs. Beale smiled. “Yeah, I know you all right. You’ll be nothing but Jeffrey in here. But—” she nodded to the door—“out there, I don’t know.”

Maniac values his identity. He shows this by placing importance on things like his real name and having an address.

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chadphares eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title character in Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee is born Jeffrey Magee and lives roughly the first decade of his life being called Jeffrey. Upon coming to the town of Two Mills after leaving the home of his aunt and uncle, Magee accomplishes a series of significant athletic accomplishments that lead to him earning the nickname of Maniac.

One of the significant events occurs when Magee shows up on a football field and intercepts a pass intended for the super-talented James "Hands" Down. Another of the accomplishments occurs when Magee shows up at the Little League field and subsequently hits multiple home runs off of the previously "unhittable" John McNab. Lastly, Magee rescues a kid who is being bullied by high school students and dumped into the yard of Finsterwald—who everybody is afraid of, except for Magee.

With Magee's sudden and dramatic burst into the town of Two Mills, the nickname Maniac seems to be appropriate.

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