Conflict in Freak the Mighty

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In 'Freak the Mighty' by Rodman Philbrick, Max and Kevin face both internal and external conflicts. In this lesson, we will learn more about the conflicts that exist throughout this story.


In Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, Max and Kevin face increasingly dangerous situations with bullies. Tony D., Iggy Lee, and Killer Kane all represent the external conflicts. As the boys join together to overcome these external obstacles, they are also each fighting a battle within themselves to overcome their limitations and find self-acceptance. In this lesson, we will learn more about conflicts in Freak the Mighty.

Tony D.

The first battle Kevin and Max face is with Tony D. Tony D. is a juvenile delinquent who attends middle school with Max and is sometimes called 'Blade' because he carries a knife with him as he leads a gang of middle school boys to wreak havoc on the community. On their own, Kevin would not have been able to physically handle Tony D. and his gang and Max would have opted-out of standing up for himself. Tony D. bullies them by yelling, 'Hey you! Mutt and Jeff! Frankenstein and Igor! Don't look around, I'm talkin' to you, boneheads. What is this, a freak show?' Together, they stand up for themselves and each other, make Tony look foolish, and realize that together, they can do more than either of them can do apart. During this conflict, 'Freak the Mighty' is born. After Kevin's death, Tony D. sympathizes with Max, which shows a depth of character that Max did not expect.

Iggy Lee

The second conflict is with Iggy Lee, the leader of the motorcycle gang, the Panheads, and Loretta Lee's husband. Loretta's purse had been stolen by Tony D.'s gang and retrieved by Max and Kevin, so the boys went to Iggy's house with the intention of performing a good deed. However, when Iggy brings them inside his home, refuses to let them leave, and demands that they give him money, the boys have reason to be concerned. They are only able to leave because Iggy realizes that Max's father is Killer Kane and Iggy is afraid of Kane. Despite Killer Kane's life sentence, Iggy has been around long enough to know that 'life ain't life.' After the boys get away, Iggy helps save Max during the third conflict. As with Tony D., the boys learn that most people aren't all good or all bad.

Killer Kane

The third conflict is with Max's dad, Killer Kane. Killer Kane has been imprisoned since Max was four years old for killing Max's mother. When Kane is released on parole, he kidnaps Max and takes him to a hideout provided by Iggy Lee. After keeping Max tied up overnight while claiming his innocence, Kane attempts to choke Loretta. When Max sees Kane trying to kill Loretta, his memories, which represent one of Max's internal conflicts, come flooding back, 'I know you killed her! I saw you! I saw you do it! You killed her and I'll never forget, not ever!' Kane intends to kill Max in order to clean up this mess, but Max is saved by Kevin, Iggy, and the police. While most of the bullies they have encountered seem to have a good side, Kane is the exception and is returned to prison. Once again, Max and Kevin are able to overcome a big obstacle through their combined powers, and Max deals with the suppressed memories of his past once and for all.

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