Freak's Dictionary 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 the Rodman Philbrick novel, ''Freak the Mighty'', words are an important part of Kevin's character. He carries a dictionary with him and even creates his very own dictionary. Why is Freak's Dictionary such an important part of this story?

Freak's Dictionary

Rodman Philbrick's novel, Freak the Mighty is a story about two very different boys that become fast friends. Kevin, Freak, is physically disabled. He has Morquio's Syndrome, which is a serious form of dwarfism caused by deformities in the spine and chest cavity. Kevin is only able to walk with the assistance of crutches and leg braces. His disability contributes to his dependence on words. On the other hand, Max, is strong physically, but struggles with reading and people skills. In this lesson, we will learn about Freak's dictionary, and its significance to both boys.

Freak the Mighty
Book Cover

The Importance of Words

Due to his disability, Kevin is frequently teased, but is unable to either run away or fight. When he was in preschool, he hit people with his crutches when he became angry. As he got older, he learned to use his best resource, which was mastery of words designed to confuse, distract, and disarm his opponent.

Kevin's use of advanced language is used with the principal, Tony D., and Killer Kane, Max's father. Kevin epitomizes knowledge as power and demonstrates that the tongue is mightier than the sword. He even carries a dictionary around with him everywhere he goes. Max has a huge respect for Kevin, thinking he is the smartest person on the planet.

Freak Writes a Dictionary

While Max is more physically capable than Kevin, Max has spent most of his life avoiding things that seemed complicated for him, like reading and people. Kevin, however, changed all of that. As Max and Kevin are able to see greatness in each other beyond their disabilities, each began to see himself as capable of doing great things. For example, Kevin showed Max how to read in a way that made sense to him.

For Christmas, Kevin has written a dictionary just for Max. This dictionary is unique because it contains all of Kevin's favorite words explained in Kevin's own unique style. For example,

  • 'arithmetic, inventing with numbers'
  • 'boats, shoes big enough to fit Maxwell Kane'
  • 'kevin, a unit of measurement equal to 70 centimeters'

On top of showing Max that Kevin believes in him, its intricate construction let's Max know that Kevin finds him worth his time. For Max, this is the best present he can possibly imagine.

What is Reality?

Early in their friendship, Kevin begins to teach Max why reading is important. 'Books are like truth serum - if you don't read, you can't figure out what's real.' Reading is the only way to tell fact from fiction.

Why does Kevin feel so strongly about finding the truth through books? At the end of the story, we discover that when Kevin was first diagnosed with his illness, Dr. Spivak tried to hide the seriousness of his disease from him, thinking he was too young to handle it, but through the use of a medical dictionary, Kevin was able to find out what was really happening with his body. From that point forward, Dr. Spivak did not try to lie to him again and Kevin realized that words were the most reliable method of determining his reality.

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