Themes of Freak the Mighty

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  • 0:03 The Message
  • 0:30 Friendship
  • 1:42 Looks Can Be Deceiving
  • 2:52 Overcoming Obstacles
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
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 are an odd couple of misfits who find each other and grow from the experience. In this lesson, we'll find out what they learn and look at some of the major themes from this novel.

The Message

If you could send out a message to the world, what would it be? Authors have a unique opportunity to share something they find important with their readers. The main points that readers take away from a novel are known as the theme. In Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, there are themes of friendship, acceptance, and persistence that drive the characters to change over the course of the story. Let's take a closer look at this young adult novel.


Kevin and Max are two outcasts who come from disadvantaged circumstances and are angry with the whole world because of it. Kevin was born with Morquio Syndrome, a metabolic disorder that disfigures him and stunts his growth. Because of his birth defect, his father leaves and Kevin is raised by his single mother, Gwen. Max is large and looks too much like his father, who is serving time in prison for murdering Max's mother when Max was four years old. Max is being raised by his mother's parents, Grim and Gram, who seem to be afraid of him.

Neither boy has ever had a friend. From the time they were small, Max kicked everyone that got near him, and Kevin hit people with his crutch and looked at others with ''death-ray eyes.'' For some reason, however, they never bothered each other.

The summer before eighth grade, the boys connect when Kevin moves in down the street. It's not long before Kevin's brains and Max's brawn are used to outsmart some local thugs from Tony D.'s gang. From that point on, Kevin and Max change from two sad, lonely boys into a team, with Kevin constantly riding on Max's shoulders and directing him. When local police ask for their names, Kevin says, ''We're Freak the Mighty, that's who we are. We're nine feet tall, in case you haven't noticed.''

Looks Can Be Deceiving

There are several times during the story when characters make incorrect assumptions based on appearances. When Max and Kevin are chased by Tony D., everyone assumes that Max has saved Kevin because Max is so much bigger and stronger, but Max feels like it is the other way around. Kevin is a genius with an unbelievable vocabulary. Kevin is the decision-maker, but Max helps carry out his plans.

People frequently jump to conclusions about Max because he looks so much like his father. Max's father is called ''Killer Kane'' within the community. Before Max meets Kevin and begins to let his softer side show, even Grim, Gram, and Gwen express fear of Max.

Despite the fact that so many people have made unfair characterizations of Max and Kevin, they're guilty of doing the same thing. After meeting Iggy and Loretta Lee, Max and Kevin think they are bad people. After all, Iggy is the leader of a motorcycle gang. However, Iggy and Loretta are the ones who help save Max when his father kidnaps him. When Loretta has to go to the hospital to be treated after Killer Kane tries to choke her, Iggy seems so worried that Max decides he must be a pretty good person. Like Grim says, ''you can't always judge a book by the cover.''

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