I Am the Cheese
In a taped dialogue between Brint and Adam, Brint asks Adam about Amy's phone call, when she meets the editor from Rawlings. Adam admits that it was strange how he instinctively covered up the absence of the Farmer family in Rawlings. Brint asked if Adam thought his father lied to him about coming from Rawlings, but Adam does not think so—although he still feels there was something unusual about the night they ran away. Adam says it only bothered him when he thought about it, and that he never confronted his father or looked for evidence. Brint says he must have challenged his father, or else Brint and Adam would not be talking about the night the Farmer family ran away. Adam says he cannot remember.
But Adam does remember. A narrative told in the third-person describes how Adam's father kept official documents in his bottom desk drawer at home. One day, Adam took the key and unlocked the drawer, while his father mowed the lawn. He found several financial documents as well as an envelope with three birth certificates, all stamped by the town clerk in Rawlings, for him and his parents, stating that his full name is "Adam David Farmer" and that his birthday is February 14, Valentine's Day. Adam found another sealed envelope, which held another birth certificate inside. He wondered whom it was for—a sibling he did not know about, perhaps? He opened it and saw his name and the town clerk's signature, but it said that his birthday is July 14th. He replaced it in the drawer as his father entered the house.
In a dialogue, Adam tells Brint that he did not tell his parents about his discovery of the birth certificate, and that he thought the second certificate was a mistake. Adam admits he was shaken by it and wondered why his father kept an incorrect birth certificate and why the envelope was sealed, but he cannot remember any other details.
We learn from a third-person narrative that Adam does remember what happened following his discovery. He spied on his parents and observed them more carefully. He wondered what secrets they were hiding, and whether this was why his mother was sad and closeted herself in her room all day. Adam would not speak to Amy about it, as he was afraid she would laugh.
In the taped dialogue, Adam tells Brint that he found out "too much and not enough." For example, when Adam learned about his mother's Thursday night phone calls, it seemed much worse than finding the birth certificates. Adam does not tell Brint about the phone calls, feeling that Brint somehow already knows about them and about everything.
Again, the third-person narrative reveals that Adam does know more, but he does not want to tell Brint. Adam only wants to return to his room, drift away, and not remember. Still, he concedes that it is valuable to talk to Brint, and that through talking he begins to fill the blank spots of his memory. Adam thinks about Thursdays, the days his mother was always happy, baking him a chocolate treat and then going up to her bedroom at night. Adam's father had told him long ago not to use the phone at this time, since it was his mother's "special" telephone hour, and he accepted this as a family ritual. Still, Adam often wondered whom she called—she had no friends, and they had no living relatives, as his father had told him before.
One Thursday night, Adam eavesdropped on his mother's call, using another phone. He heard the voice of an older woman—named Martha—who told his mother about the beautiful place where she lives, and that it is "not simply a place to hide." Martha asks about her nephew, Adam. Adam hangs up just before his father walks into the room, but he is shocked, realizing that his parents have explicitly lied to him by saying they had no living relatives.
Returning to the dialogue between Adam and Brint, it appears that Adam has revealed this memory to Brint, but he now feels ill and they end their session.
The novel uses the conventions of the mystery/detective novel. Adam discovers information in two clichéd ways—rooting through a desk and eavesdropping on a phone conversation. However, our suspense increases because Adam is searching for clues about his own life. Simultaneously, the reader pieces the clues together as Adam does, through his point of view. Although Adam actually starts remembering his childhood during his dialogues with Brint, real revelations all come through third-person memories. Since Cormier can more eloquently describe Adam's emotions than Adam himself, the mystery sections are rendered more sensitively. We uncover not only pertinent information about Adam's past, but we also understand what it would be like to find out horrifying secrets about our past.
We now have a few more clues about Adam's past. The Farmers have fled from someone, because Martha states this in the phone conversation with Adam's mother. But what has the entire extended family had to flee as well? Whatever the answer, it is obvious that Adam's mother's sadness is derived from this flight, and from surrendering the life she once led. Her inactive social life indicates that something holds her back from joining their new life, as well.
On a final note, Adam's second birth certificate states that his birthday is July 14, or Bastille Day in France—the day that celebrates the country's independence. Adam's two birthdays celebrate love and freedom, the two things he seeks throughout his journey—the love of his father and freedom.
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