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I Am the Cheese

Robert Cormier

TAPE OZK007–TAPE OZK010

TAPE OZK006

TAPE OZK011

Summary

Narrative

Adam narrates and describes eating clam chowder in a diner in the small town of Carver. He has left his bike at the police station, and watches the only other customers—three unsavory diners who are eating popcorn. The counterman had dropped a huge chunk of butter in his chowder, which Adam only pretends to like because the counterman smiles. The three guys start throwing popcorn at Adam, who tries to ignore them. One of the popcorn-throwers, a teenager named Whipper, comes over and hassles Adam with questions about where he is from and where he is headed. When Whipper finds out that Adam left his bike at the police station for "safekeeping," he takes offense that Adam does not trust his town. He says he wants to see what is in the package Adam is carrying to bring to his father. Adam is enraged and he will not let anyone see it. Without any words, Whipper finally backs off, and the counterman interrupts. Adam leaves the diner, holding the package.

TAPE OZK007

In a dialogue between Brint and Adam, Brint asks what is wrong, as Adam has summoned him at 2:15 A.M. Adam finally speaks and asks him to fill in the rest of the blanks, if Brint knows them.

A third-person narration describes how Adam remembers waking up in a sweat in his room at home, unsure of his identity. His name seemed like merely an arbitrary combination of words. He hears himself moaning.

Back in the session, Adam asks Brint why he can remember only so much, and not everything. Brint suggests that a part of Adam does not want to remember, because the truth is so terrible. Adam wants to know why and for how long he has been here, and he says he hates the people at this place and thinks they hate him. He agrees to take one pill to help him fall asleep.

Narrative

Adam narrates that he is about to leave Carver when he spots a telephone booth. He sees an old lady with a red hat on her head, and they mutually smile at each other's hat. Adam gets another male operator on the phone and places a call to Amy. A man answers and says there is no Amy who lives there. Adam realizes he has dialed the wrong number. He sees the diners, led by Whipper, slowly walking toward him. He hangs up on the man and makes a quick getaway on his bike, feeling even less brave than before.

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Adam and Brint speak to each other, and Adam brings up someone called the "gray man" to Brint, whom he says he remembered after taking a pill the previous night. Adam is not sure who he is, but knows he is an important clue. Brint presses Adam, but his aggression only disrupts Adam, who is on the brink of remembering. Brint brings up Paul Delmonte. Adam asks if he is the gray man, and says that when he was brought up earlier, he was bluffing when he told Brint he did not want to talk about him. Adam actually does not know who Paul is, and Adam and Brint end the session.

Narrative

Adam narrates as he pedals outside Carver and tries to avoid a deep ditch on the side of the road. A car, driven by Whipper and his friends from the diner, speeds by and nearly hits Adam. Whipper then turns around the car at a curve ahead and charges back. The car makes slight contact with the bike and one of the passengers hits Adam's shoulder. The car chases the furiously peddling Adam, until one of the passengers knocks him into the ditch with his hands.

TAPE OZK009

Brint talks to Adam, who does not respond. Brint says he heard that Adam refused to get out of bed yesterday, and has not been eating or sleeping, and that he has only been staring into space. Brint explains that Adam's unresponsiveness is due to his terrible memories. Bring promises to help Adam.

TAPE OZK010

Again, Brint speaks but Adam is silent. He has heard Adam refuses to eat breakfast. He tries bringing up the gray man, but ends the session when Adam still will not speak.

Analysis

Clearly, Adam is in a mental institution with other patients, but there are also indications that the institution is related to his journey to Rutterburg. Earlier, a German shepherd that Adam saw as he biked was similar to the one at the institution. Now, Adam tells Brint that he hates the people there and they hate him and this comes just after his ill-fated run-in with Whipper and friends in Carver. Cormier cross-cuts the first-person narrative of the journey's narrative with third-person narrative in a way that builds dramatic tension. The two pieces of the narrative seem to be distinct, but they are connected, and have more to do with each other than simply developing the story's suspense.

Adam reveals his intimate attachment to his father's package with the powerful statement, "I am the package." The words are significant because they mimic the novel's title and show that Adam identifies with the contents of the package. Cormier not only develops the suspense about what is inside the package. He also foreshadows the importance of the cryptic meaning of "I Am the Cheese," and we look forward to whatever it signifies. The context of the title of the novel seems as important to Adam's identity as the package's contents.

Cormier plants further twists and clues in this section. We become suspicious that Adam is lying about not knowing Paul Delmonte. We also learn that the gray man is a crucial key to Adam's past, since Adam retreats when Brint mentions his name. Other strange clues about Adam's past are his phone calls to Amy. In both of Adam's attempts to reach her, he tries to connect through a male operator, an anomaly he noted in the first call. While he does not explicitly mention that this is the same operator, he calls him "the male operator," instead of "a" male operator, so there is a grammatical suggestion that it is the same operator.

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