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I Am the Cheese

Robert Cormier

TAPE OZK015–016

TAPE OZK014

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

TAPE OZK015

In a taped session, Adam tells Brint about the family's road trip to Vermont.

Adam's father had them all sit in the front seat, presumably for protection. Adam asked his father about "The Farmer in the Dell," and then the whole family started singing it together. Adam questioned his father about Grey's statement that they can never return to Monument, and he reassured him that it is most likely a false alarm.

The Farmers stopped at a McDonald's for hamburgers and continued on until they found the Rest-A-While motel. They decided to sleep there, and Adam's father arranged for them all to stay in one room. The Farmers enjoyed a quiet dinner together, and joked around in the cabin until they went to sleep. The next morning they headed to the town of Barre.

As the Farmers drove, Adam's father thought that a car was following them. They hoped that it was just one of Grey's men guarding them. The Farmers pulled over to the side of the road, and as the other car passed, Adam's father assured the others that it was Grey's men. The Farmers drove on until they hit a breathtaking view, and they all stepped out of the car. Suddenly, a car roared around a curve and hurtled toward them. Adam ran, heard a scream, and turned around.

In dialogue with Brint, Adam slowly reveals that he saw the car "smashing," but he will not say what it smashed into.

A third-person narrator explains that Adam remembers that the car smashed into his family and himself. The car sent him flying into the air, and he saw his mother die next to him. Adam lay in blood and looked at his dead mother. He heard three voices that said that his father got away, but that they will get him—"they never miss." Adam averted his eyes from his mother and saw a tall man in gray pants walking toward them. The man told the other men to remove Adam's mother, but to keep Adam, as he may be "useful." As the men took Adam away, Adam fell into a hazy dream.

In the dialogue, Brint asks who the man was, but Adam does not respond. He asks Adam to lift his hand, but he does not.

Narrative

Adam narrates as he reaches Rutterburg. He turns a corner and sees "the hospital" and meets Dr. Dupont. Adam looks outside the gates and vows to ride his bike out there someday. Dr. Dupont leads Adam back inside the hospital. They see Mr. Harvester, the elderly maintenance man, and Whipper with his two friends. Adam thinks about the time he was riding around the grounds and Whipper and his friends chased him into a ditch.

Dr. Dupont calls the place a home for troubled people, not an institution. He shoos away Silver, the German shepherd, who often chases Adam. They pass by Luke, the switchboard operator, who doubles as a meal-server and often gives Adam extra portions. Dr. Dupont and Adam walk up a spiral staircase and see Arthur Hayes, the fat man who watches everyone from the second floor. Adam is afraid that Junior Varney may try to steal his bike.

Adam enters his hospital room and Dr. Dupont gives him two pills. Adam asks the doctor whether his father is dead. Adam fears going to "that other room" with bars on the windows, where he sits and answers questions. Dr. Dupont does not answer, and Adam asks again. Adam knows that his mother is dead, although he is unsure how he knows. Adam recognizes the sad look on the doctor's face—Dupont has the same look every time Adam re-learns that his father is dead.

The doctor takes Adam's package and Adam sings "The Farmer in the Dell." The doctor opens up the package and takes out Pokey the Pig, Adam's old stuffed animal. Adam is happy the doctor found Pokey, as well as his father's old hat and army jacket. Adam finishes the song, which ends with the line, "The cheese stands alone." The doctor calls him Paul, and Adam wonders who that is. He knows there is another name, but he cannot think about it. Adam knows who he is, and he says "I am the cheese."

TAPE OZK016

Brint files his annual report on "File Data 865–01," with references to "Subject A" (Adam), "Personnel #2222 (Grey)," and "Agency Basic Procedures." Brint says it was impossible to elicit the suspected information from Adam that is sought by "Department 1-R." The summary report states that this is the third annual questioning of Adam. Adam does not reveal any information given by "Witness #599–6," Adam's father, a member of the Witness Re-Establishment Project. The report also says that Adam withdraws completely when he tries to remember the death of his father and mother, but that the knowledge may be in the "psychological residue" of the subject.

Brint issues three possible advisories. One, that Department 1-R should revise Policy 979, which currently does not allow the termination, or death, of Adam. Two, that the Department discontinue the suspension of #2222 and reinstate him. Brint argues that no one knows whether #2222 facilitated the murder of Adam's parents. He notes that #2222 acted efficiently after the Farmer's deaths. Agent #2222 also removed Adam's mother's remains from the scene and transferred Adam to "confinement facilities," all without the involvement of the local authorities. Brint says that #2222 acted within existing policies of the Agency. The final advisory states that because Adam is the final link between Adam's father and File Data 865–01, he recommends that Adam be confined in the facilities until his termination is approved, or until he "obliterates."

Narrative

The final page reprints the first paragraph of the book.

Analysis

Cormier provides insight into some of the novel's mysteries in the powerful, terrifying double climax. The end resolves the mystery of what happened to Adam and his family and the reason for Adam's stay at the institution. Adam's bike ride to Rutterburg reveals itself as a fantasy-spurred trip around the grounds of the mental hospital. When Adam arrives at "Rutterburg," and walks around the hospital grounds, we realize that the characters and places in his journey reflect individuals and buildings at the institution. The orange-painted hospital was Howard Johnson's, Mr. Harvester is the old man at the gas station, Luke is the operator, and Arthur, Junior Varney, and Whipper are fellow residents. Adam's claustrophobia and need for freedom relate not solely to his issues with his identity, but to his actual imprisonment, as he is confined to the hospital. Adam's parents' fake news article was prophetic, as it reported the family's death due to a car accident on the highway.

The second resolution of the novel's mysteries is possibly more terrifying. It appears that Brint works for the same "Agency" as Grey, and has been trying to obtain any new information from Adam that Anthony Delmonte may have told him. In case you had difficulty decoding the final taped report, recall Tape OZK013 (Section 8), when Adam's mother revealed that Grey's government number was 2222. The narrative suggests that Grey betrayed the Farmers—note the tall man's gray pants and Adam's familiarity with "Him." We are not sure why Grey allowed Adam's parents to be murdered. One possible explanation is that Grey feared that Adam's father was still withholding information, possibly information that could hurt him.

All organizational and governmental figures have been working against the Farmers. Grey's had ulterior motives against Adam's father, just as Brint does against Adam. Adam's death is imminent, as he is the "final linkage" to File Data 865–01, the information the Agency was afraid Adam's father knew, but was withholding. The reprinted paragraph of the first page of Adam's journey suggests that Adam will eternally make the same journey to relearn his identity and to restore a memory too horrible for him to accept. The journey will continue until he is "obliterated." Cormier also reveals the novel's final mystery, that of the novel's title, and Adam's last statement, "I am the cheese." The title carries with it a sad reminder that Adam will stand utterly alone, an orphan who does not even know his name, and does not even have himself as company.

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