At a Glance

  • Freak the Mighty is a novel about the individual's role in society. Both of the main characters, Max and Kevin, are misfits or "freaks," and both of them struggle to cope with their disabilities and find their place in the world. Their social surroundings (middle school, with all its bullies) makes fitting in especially difficult, but Max and Kevin find strength in each other.
  • Homes are symbols of poverty and social divisions in Freak the Mighty. The tenements where Iggy and Loretta live are good examples of this. Rundown, crime-ridden, and impoverished, the tenements reflect the broken and crippled families inside them. Max's difficult home life is the source of his emotional problems.
  • Escapism gives Max and Kevin a way to forget the pain of reality. In their imaginary world, Freak the Mighty is a hero, struggles are adventures, and the dangerous city where they live takes on a beautiful, hopeful gleam. Kevin's unfulfilled desire to transfer his consciousness into a bionic body emphasizes his unhappiness with his situation.

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While Philbrick has indicated that Freak the Mighty was to be set in and around Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he went to high school, the larger geographical location plays almost no part in the book. There are not, for example, distinctive weather, flora, or accents. Instead, two general categories provide all the settings for the action: social settings (especially domestic settings) and imaginary settings.

The first social setting is a series of snapshots of day care or school encounters between Kevin and Max. The main setting initially explored is Max’s basement bedroom, which is as much a cave or a refuge as it is a bedroom. The paneled walls buckle, but “down under” is a place for Max to hide away from an unfriendly world. It is a run-down and depressing place, but it is at least his own. Except for Kevin’s house, the other social/domestic settings are even more depressing. When the boys visit the New Tenements (called the “New Testaments”), it is a sad and broken environment, one where people have no hope. Max’s father takes him to an old woman’s home, where they are intruders, and then to the filthy basement of a burned-out building. The conclusion...

(The entire section is 549 words.)