Why does Maniac Magee refuse to go home with Mars Bar in Maniac Magee?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The answer to this question isn't 100% straightforward. The text doesn't explicitly explain why Maniac turns down the offer from Mars Bar. We just see Maniac struggling with the offer and finally just admitting that he can't do it.

"I can't. "

"Why not:'" said Mars Bar. "My house not good enough? My mother?"

Maniac struggled for words. "I didn't say I didn't want to. It's don't know . . . things happen . . . I can't . . ."

Mars Bar is not okay with the answer. He gets upset with Maniac, and Mars Bar attempts to ask Maniac one more time. Mars Bar even suggests that Maniac just try it out for a bit. Maniac doesn't accept the offer and walks away. The following chapter has Amanda telling Maniac that he is coming home with her to stay, and she doesn't take no for an answer. Maniac isn't jumping for joy at the situation, but he does go with her.

I think Maniac's main issue with going home with Mars Bar (or anybody else) is that he is afraid of the situation. He has been alone for a long time for sure, but I think that is because he's afraid of the family dynamic. He hasn't had a great experience with families. His mom and dad loved him, and that was a good situation, but they were killed; therefore, Maniac had to deal with that tremendous emotional pain. Then his experience with his Aunt and Uncle was terrible. Their relationship imploded before his very eyes, and it got to the point that Maniac couldn't stand being around them anymore. That's when he ran away. I think Maniac turns down Mars Bar because Maniac is afraid of growing attached to a family and then having it potentially taken away from him for one reason or another. If Maniac is on his own, then he never has to experience the hurt of his family being broken apart again.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Maniac does not accept Mars Bar’s invitation because he is not ready to have a family yet.

Over the course of the book, Maniac develops a friendship with Mars Bar.  He is a strange kid, but then again so is Maniac.  Maniac is not used to being around people, and at the time that Mars Bar asks him to come home in chapter 45, he is reeling from the reminder of his parents’ death as a result of the incident with Russell and the trestle.

All we sayin’—all she sayin’—is, you wanna come for a little, you know, visit?  You want to?  Well, come on, you can.  That’s all.  Don’t go makin’ no big thing, man.  Ain’t no big thing.” (ch 45, p. 180)

Maniac shudders not because he does not like Mars Bar, but because he can’t imagine going home with him.  Although Maniac does not want to go home with Mars Bar, he is unable to explain to him why he can’t go.  This is because Maniac is unable to share his feelings.  He is used to living alone, and on his own.  He is not ready to become part of a family even though he is friends with Mars Bar.


Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Maniac Magee, why doesn't Maniac feel he can go to Mars Bar's house?

Maniac doesn’t want to go to Mars Bar’s house because he has been moving from home to home, but he realizes he belongs with the Beales. 

Maniac Magee has been homeless since he ran away from his foster parents (his aunt and uncle), except for a couple of brief stints with people who took him in.  He lived with the Beales, and then in the buffalo pen at the zoo, and then with Grayson, the old groundskeeper until he died.  After Grayson died, Maniac resumed sleeping in the buffalo pen.  This is where Mars Bar found him. 

Mars Bar tells Maniac about saving Russel from the trestle.  Maniac explains that he wasn’t able to save the boy because he was reminded of how his parents died.  The boys understand each other better after this.  Although Mars Bar and Maniac have not always seen eye to eye, this conversation helps.  Mars Bar tells Maniac that sleeping with the buffalo has not been good for him.



"I had to ask you something. Now I gotta tell you something."

"What's that?"

"You smell like a buffalo."

Ears of a hundred different shapes prickled at the long, loud laughter of the boys. (Ch. 45)

Maniac may seem to not know or care what other people think of him, but he has been having a very hard time finding a home.  At this point, he just isn’t ready to go to Mars Bar’s house.  Smelling like a buffalo is a good excuse.

Having made a full circle of the zoo, they were back at the pen of the American bison. Maniac said, "I can't."

"Why not?” said Mars Bar. "My house not good enough? My mother?"

Maniac struggled for words. "I didn't say I didn't want to. I don't know...things happen… I can't..." (Ch. 45)

Luckily, Amanda Beale knows where to find Maniac, and tells him to come home.  The Beales are Maniac’s real family at this point.  He allowed himself to be run off from there because of the troubling race relations between the East and West End.  However, by this point, he is ready to return “home” for good.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on