Grim & Gram 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.

Grim and Gram are the grandparents that Max lives with after the death of his mother in the Rodman Philbrick novel, 'Freak the Mighty'. In this lesson, we will learn more about their characters.

Max's Relationship with Grim and Gram

Max, or Maxwell, lives with his mother's parents, Grim and Gram. Still heartbroken over the loss of their daughter and unsure of how to cope with the damage Max has endured, Grim and Gram have a strained relationship with Max. As Kevin brings Max out of his shell, the three of them begin to find common ground. In this lesson, we will learn more about Grim and Gram from the Rodman Philbrick novel, Freak the Mighty.

Max, the narrator, has already had a rough childhood at four years old when he moves in with his grandparents. While they try to show him affection, they are pushed away by Max who seems to resent them for his situation. At the beginning of the story, there are very few references to Grim and Gram that aren't negative.

  • 'Gram and Grim, bless their pointed little heads, they're my mother's people, her parents.'

Even though they are raising him, Max doesn't claim Grim and Gram as his people. As much as Max seems to resent them, it seems that he also has some feelings of guilt associated with being born of his father.

  • 'Which is the way he (Grim) always talked about my father, who married his dear departed daughter and produced, eek eek, Maxwell. Grim never says my father's name, just Him, like his name is too scary to say.' (Max)

It doesn't help when Max overhears Grim and Gram talking about how much Max is like his dad. Grim and Gram seem to genuinely fear the person Max is growing up to be.

  • 'It's more than just the way Maxwell resembles him, Grim says that night in the kitchen, the boy is like him, we'd better watch out, you never know what he might do while we're sleeping.'

It's got to make Max feel great when his guardians say he is just like the dad that they refuse to speak about. Is there any hope for this relationship?

Kevin Changes Everything

Things start to change when Kevin enters the picture. When the police bring Max home soaking wet from the millpond after the Fourth of July fireworks show, Max is sure he's going to be in big trouble, but the police present things as though Max saved poor little Kevin from the local gang. Grim and Gram are so proud that they begin looking at Max differently.

  • 'Next thing he's clearing his throat and coughing into his fist and Gram is looking at the two of us and she gets this Gram-like glow, like this is how it's supposed to be … with the family getting all gooey and sentimental.' (Max)

Then, Max shocks even himself by saying, 'Thank you, sir, ' when he is offered coffee and ice cream as a reward. From this point forward, Grim, Gram, and Max begin to become acquainted on a completely different level.

Grandparents are People

When Gwen suggests letting Max out of special education so that the two boys can be together in the higher level classes, Grim and Gram agree.

  • Grim is saying, 'Let's give it a try, nothing else has worked, maybe what he needs is a friend, that's the one thing he's never had with all those special teachers.'

Once Max gets to know him, it turns out Grim can actually be pretty funny. Grim entertains them all on Christmas Eve with comical exaggerations of his life as I child.

  • 'I'm telling tales, my dear, not lies. Lies are mean things, and tales are meant to entertain.' (Grim)

He must have also been telling tales when he said he never drank.

  • 'The poison never crossed his lips, he likes to say, even though I've seen a picture of him in the army and that sure looks like a bottle of beer in his hand.'

When Max's father Killer Kane gets out on parole, Max begins to see just how much his grandfather loves him.

  • 'I have an obligation,' he's (Grim) saying. 'A man has to protect his family.' 'Not with a gun!' Gram yells.

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