What is one literary feature used in the novel Maniac Magee?

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One feature Spinelli uses when writing his book is to refer to the events as if they were a legend. He uses third person narration and the first chapter to do this. Spinelli establishes that Maniac became a legend in Two Mills from the beginning. After that, everything he does is described as larger than life. Jeffrey is Maniac, rather than just Jeffrey, and this makes things he does seem even more extraordinary.

The book’s opening introduces the idea that Maniac has become a neighborhood legend. The author begins with a list of incredible traits attributed to Maniac. 

They say Maniac Magee was born in a dump. They say his stomach was a cereal box and his heart a sofa spring.…

They say.

What's true, what's myth! It's hard to know.

The author also contributes to the legend format by using the third person omniscient. This means that we do not get to see events from only Jeffrey’s perspective. Instead, he is referred to in the third person. We also know what others think of him.

For example, we learn of Amanda Beale’s reaction when she first encounters Maniac, who is white and should not be in her neighborhood.

Amanda was suspicious. Who was this white stranger kid! And what was he doing in the East End, where almost all the kids were black! And why was he saying that! (Ch. 3)

The third person omniscient narrator accomplishes the legend feature in two ways. First, we do not ever really get that close to Jeffrey. We know what he is thinking, but only from the distant narrator. Second, we see how others react to him, and this helps explain how a pretty ordinary kid became a legend.

Jeffrey Magee is not that unusual, except that he lives life and responds to the the world on his own terms. His foster parents ignored him, so he left. He loves reading, so he reads everywhere. He is not aware of divisions of race or neighborhood, so he ignores them. He is just himself, but in a world that relies on tradition as much as Two Mills, that makes him extraordinary.

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