Freak the Mighty Themes
by Rodman Philbrick

Freak the Mighty book cover
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Freak the Mighty Themes

The main themes in Freak the Mighty are alienation, friendship, and acceptance.

  • Alienation: Both Max and Kevin are ostracized by other children because of their disabilities. However, by becoming friends and embracing their differences, they overcome their alienation.
  • Friendship: Prior to becoming friends, 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.
  • Acceptance: Max and Kevin's mutual acceptance of each other makes them both stronger, allowing them to grow together and work through their problems.

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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 Max is withdrawn and isolated when the book starts.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. 


(The entire section is 559 words.)