(Novels for Students)

The Individual against Society
Like the central character of Cormier's earlier work, The Chocolate War, Adam Farmer confronts forces that are stronger than he is, and he ultimately faces them alone and loses. These forces in I Am the Cheese are all the more sinister because they are housed where Adam should be able to expect protection—in his own government and his psychiatrist—and because the danger arose only after Mr. Farmer committed a courageous and moral act.

For fourteen years, Adam's parents do their best to keep him safe. Mr. Farmer at first refuses the government's offer of a new identity, accepting only when he realizes that his wife and child are also in danger. In hiding, the Farmers seem in some ways to have a relatively normal life, and the scenes of the family laughing and singing "The Farmer in the Dell" are lighthearted and warm. However, their safety is in isolation. Mrs. Farmer does not join committees and make friends as Mrs. Hertz does; in fact, she almost never leaves the house. Mr. Farmer is cut off from his work as a writer. The family appears to have no living relatives, no friends, no neighbors to chat over the fence with.

This isolation becomes a part of Adam's personality. Although he does not share his parents' fear of discovery, he is a frightened and shy child. Amy Hertz seems to be his first close friend, but, even as he comes to love her, he never confides in her. He and his parents are alone, with only Mr. Grey to protect them and connect them to the outside world.

Of course, as Mrs. Farmer suspects all along, Mr. Grey cannot (or will not) protect them....

(The entire section is 673 words.)