Ambition and Ability

At the beginning of I Am the Messenger, Markus Zusak describes Ed as an utterly ordinary nineteen-year-old taxi driver with no ambition in life. When Ed acts the hero in a botched bank robbery, he does so mainly because it is easy. Only when he begins receiving cards in the mail does he begin to challenge himself. He has to learn to care about people, to take risks, and to reach out to his friends when they need him. By the end of the story, he is a hero and a saint in the eyes of many people. In the final conversation between Ed and the mysterious author who orchestrated his series of challenges, the author explains that he wanted to prove that ordinary people are capable of more than their apparent potential.

Success Is in the Person, Not the Place

At the beginning of the novel, Ed equates success to leaving home. He suggests that he is a failure because he did not leave town when he grew up, as all his siblings did. He seems to get this belief from his mother, who regards moving away as the key to success. Near the end of the story, she reveals that she always wanted to move away with Ed’s father and start a new life elsewhere. Ed’s father never managed to make anything of himself before he died, and she is still bitter about this. Ed is very similar to his father, which makes his failure particularly painful for her. She says: could be as good as any of them.... But you’re still here and you’ll still be here in fifty years.

Ed’s mother is cruel to him partly because she wants to punish him as she can no longer punish his father. On some level, however, she loves Ed and hopes that her cruelty will push him away and force him to live up to his potential.

As the story progresses, Zusak shows that Ed’s mother is incorrect. Moving away does not by itself help a person succeed. In a conflict with his mother near the end of the story, Ed explains this insight:

If you left here, Ma, you’d have been the same anywhere else.... If I ever leave this place...I’ll make sure I’m better here first.

Through the events of the story, Zusak shows that people achieve success by standing up to challenges. In real life, some people may face such challenges when they leave home, but Zusak argues that leaving is not by itself a way to ensure that a person will succeed. A person can stay home and succeed if he helps others, faces danger, and grows in his relationships—as Ed does in the story.

Success Is in the...

(The entire section is 1083 words.)