Freak the Mighty Themes

  • Max and Kevin are both misfits. Author Rodman Philbrick develops the theme of fitting in through their characters, demonstrating how people on the outskirts of society can come together in spite of their alienation. He also depicts children in general as a group prone to ostracizing the "freaks" who don't fit the status quo.
  • Friendship is one of the most important themes in Freak the Mighty. Prior to becoming friends the summer before eighth grade, both Max and Kevin lived isolated lives, partly out of choice and partly because their differences isolated them from the other children. Max and Kevin grow both individually and as a team through their friendship.
  • In Freak the Mighty, acceptance is essential for friendship. Max and Kevin are the only two kids capable of accepting the other's disabilities. Their mutual acceptance makes them both stronger, allowing them to form the semi-heroic figure of Freak the Mighty. It also has the side effect of helping Max work through his emotional problems.


In Chapter 12, when the other kids tease Max for being slow under pressure, Kevin climbs up on his shoulders and announces that together they are “Freak the Mighty.” This explicit transformation is only one of many radical changes that occur throughout the novel. Some changes are only hypothetical or longed for, as when Kevin claims that his identity will be transplanted into an experimental bionic body. Some changes are linguistic but symbolic: it matters that Max calls his grandparents “Grim” and “Gram.” This makes them sound flattened and cartoonish, like fairy-tale creatures with titles rather than names. Other changes begin as imaginary but become real, as when the boys go on the quests that Kevin guides. Some changes are only superficial—for example, when Max’s father, Kenny, claims to have found religion while in prison, but remains a profoundly cold and disturbing figure. Some of these changes are physical. Max’s marked growth is commented on throughout the novel, and Kevin’s physical problems, though they come from a birth defect, are repeatedly boiled down to the idea that his insides are growing faster than his outsides.

This entire novel, however, is a larger story of transformation—a tale of growth and becoming. Max is withdrawn and isolated when the book starts. Through his interactions with Kevin, he learns that he is much smarter than he thought and that people love him. Through the example of people like Iggy and Loretta (who can do the right thing even when they are scared), through his grandparents’ love, and through Kevin’s complete acceptance, Max grows up much healthier and much more whole. The book itself is evidence of this transformation. Before meeting Kevin, Max never would have written anything voluntarily. Afterward, he writes an entire book, just to memorialize his friend and tell their story.

Love and Friendship

(The entire section is 559 words.)