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I Am the Cheese

Robert Cormier

Important Quotations Explained

TAPE OZK015–016

Key Facts

I am the cheese.

Adam thinks this to himself in the final first person narrative section (Section 10), after reciting the song, "The Farmer in the Dell." Three out of four lines in each verse of the song repeat some "taking" action, such as "The farmer takes a wife" or "The wife takes a child." The final verse of the ditty is "The cheese stands alone," and this is how Adam feels—he is alone, without any parents or even his own identity. Cormier has solved the mystery of Adam identity, however, Adam is unable to handle the truth of his past. He sends himself back to having no identity, he is simply alone and he is simply "the cheese." The quote answers the mystery of the novel's title, and encapsulates Adam's struggle with his painful situation.

"...there are the Never Knows. Never knowing who can be trusted. Never knowing who that stranger in town can be."

Louise tells Adam about her fears of living as a refugee after he confronts her in TAPEOZK013 (Section 8). Similarly, Adam harbored fears of the Never Knows all along without ever knowing why. This revelation helps Adam better understand the nature of why he is scared, and that his fears are justified. Louise's fears center around distrust and anxiety, and worst of all, they isolate the Farmers from their community and loved ones. This is extremely painful for Louise, who is only allowed to speak with her sister Martha once a week at a particular time. The confinement is also difficult for Adam, who yearns to share his secrets with Amy.

"Whenever you are on the edge of revealing something important in your past, you stall, voicing suspicions of my questions because you are afraid, because you are reluctant to face your past."

This statement is Brint defense against Adam's accusations that Brint is trying to make Adam betray his father's information in TAPEOZK012 (Section 7). Brint attempts to further manipulate Adam into revealing the information, if he has it, regarding his father's knowledge. The quote shows Brint's sinister persistence undercuts the pretend help he offers to Adam, in his quest to "guide" him to the truth. Making it more complicated is that Adam does actually exhibit signs of fear whenever he gets too close to the truth. Brint uses this fear to manipulate Adam into thinking he needs Brint to figure out his identity and find his past. Brint is the most corrupt authority figure in a novel teeming with corruption, betraying a boy in need of a nurturing parental figure.

"...I stood there with all that immensity of space around me in center field and I felt as though I'd be swept off the face of the planet, into space."

Adam says this at the very beginning (Section 1) of the book, as he lists some of his various fears, such as claustrophobia and a fear of dogs. His claustrophobia is understandable, as Adam is physically confined to a mental hospital. He is also psychologically imprisoned, as he is not able to grasp the reality of his tragic situation, nor is he able to tell anyone about his secrets or escape his secret life. Adam sympathizes with Arthur Hayes when he sees him encaged in the fire escape. Adam's fear of phone booths is as much due to the absence of open communication with other human beings, as the small physical space of the booth. The basis for his fear of open spaces, however, is subtler. Adam has only a loose hold on his identity, and he is dimly aware, at this point, of how much it is has been altered without his consent. Whereas he delights in the powerful feeling of moving outside his body when talking with Brint, he accepts the out of body experience because he is controlling it. On the other hand, in center field, as in his life, Adam knows that he is a helpless individual in a huge world where others hold the reins. He is alone in the huge space of the world, as well as the tiny details of life.

"I am riding the bicycle and I am on Route thirty-one in Monument, Massachusetts, on my way to Rutterburg, Vermont..."

These are the first and last words of the book, and constitute Adam's quest to meet his father. However, the end of the book reveals that Adam never went far away, and it suggests that he rode his bike around the grounds of a mental hospital. The entire trip took place in his mind, a futile attempt to make himself believe that his father was still alive, and that he can find him at the end of his journey. Just as Adam reaches the horrifying truth—that his father died, along with his mother—he withdraws, loses his memory again, and becomes infantile. Brint suggests that Adam should be killed, or held until he "obliterates," and when Adam repeats his journey again at the end of the book, it is clear that this will be his obliteration—an ongoing bike trip around the hospital.

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