Max 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.

Max Kane is the main character and narrator for the Rodman Philbrick novel, 'Freak the Mighty.' In this lesson, we will learn more about Max and his development as the story progresses.

Tragic Past

The narrator, Max Kane, of Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick is a teenage boy with a tragic past. Not knowing how to deal with the events that surrounded his mother's death and his father's imprisonment, Max pushes everyone away. Once he develops a friendship with Kevin, things start to change.

Before Kevin

After the death of his mother, which happens when he is in pre-school, Max moves in with his grandparents, Grim and Gram. He doesn't like or trust other people and does whatever he can to keep them from getting too close. In pre-school, he does this by kicking people, which earns him the nickname Kicker.

  • 'I invented games like kick-boxing and kick-knees and kick-faces and kick-teachers, and kick-the-other-little-day-care-critters,…' (Max)

Grim and Gram try to give him affection, but he pushes them away, also.

  • 'I knew what a rotten lie that hug stuff was.'(Max)

As he gets older, he spends his time alone down under, which is what he calls his room in the basement.

  • 'I like it in the down under, got the place all to myself and no fear of Gram sticking her head in the door and saying Maxwell dear, what are you doing?' (Max)

Kevin Moves In

When Kevin first moves into the duplex down the street, Max has no idea what an influence Kevin will have on him.

  • 'There's this weird-looking little dude, he's got a normal-sized head, but the rest of him is shorter than a yardstick and kind of twisted in a way that means he can't stand up straight and makes his chest puff out, and he's waving his crutches around and yelling at the movers.' (Max)

As Max is watching while Kevin is moving in, he sees Kevin attacking a tree with his crutch. Max then does something out of the ordinary for him and approaches Kevin, at that time a stranger to him, and helps him retrieve his ornithopter (mechanical bird) from a tree.

  • 'What I do, I keep out of range of that crutch and just reach up and pick the paper thing right out of the tree … I go, 'You want this back or what?'(Max)

As their friendship is beginning, Max goes out of his way to hide his disabilities from Kevin.

  • 'This time I don't say huh because then I might have to explain how I'm an L.D., and reading books is the last thing I want to do.' (Max)

Freak the Mighty

As the friendship between Max and Kevin develops, Kevin's brain and Max's physical strength combine to create a dynamic unit that Kevin names Freak the Mighty.

  • 'I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that's the truth, the whole truth.'(Max)

Max has tremendous respect for Kevin and even begins to take some lessons from him.

  • 'You should hear him talk. I think the rest of him is so small because his brain is so big.' (Max)

People assume because of Kevin's little body that Max is the one that is taking care of Kevin, but Kevin knows that he is also taking care of Max.

  • 'Except that's how it must have looked from a distance, because they never knew it was Freak who rescued me--or his genius brain and my big dumb body.' (Max)

When Kevin begins to teach Max in a way that works for him, words begin to make sense.

  • 'I know about that because Freak has been showing me how to read a whole book and for some reason it all makes sense, where before it was just a bunch of words I didn't care about.'(Max)

Dealing with the Past

While Max's resistance to people and learning is melting because of his relationship with Kevin, there is still something dark from his past that Max has not dealt with. When the parole board contacts the principal of the school about Max's father's release from prison, he has a strong reaction.

  • 'I jump up and cover my ears, holding my hands real tight. 'Don't want to hear it! Don't want to hear it! Don't! Don't! Don't!' (Max)

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