Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 5, 2023
November 28, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
See discount terms and conditions.
James wakes up in the dark in his new room. In the bathroom,
he makes an attempt to look himself in the eyes, but fails. He bumps into
Roy, who tells him that his job is to clean the group toilets. After cleaning
the toilets, James goes back to his room and vomits. James sits
by himself at breakfast. After breakfast he is driven to a dentist appointment
by Hank, a recovering alcoholic who now works for the clinic. In
the dentist’s office, James recognizes a picture book—Babar
the Elephant—being read by a little boy. The dentist tells James
that he’ll have to come back in a few days so that they can do root
canals on his two front teeth and cap the teeth next to his front teeth.
At lunch James meets Leonard, a man who claims that James
has been calling him Gene Hackman for days. There’s a small confrontation
after which Leonard and James become friends. James infers from
their conversation that Leonard’s line of work is not legal, and that
he makes an enormous amount of money. This is oddly comforting to
James. At lecture, James starts to feel sick. He deals with it by
squeezing his face, the pain taking his mind off feeling sick. On his
way back to his room, Ken calls him in to take the MMPI, a personality
test. There are 557 true/false questions
on the exam. James is able to answer all but one: whether or not
“[His] sins are unpardonable.” After the test James makes some calls
to his friends and family. They inquire after his health. He calls
his mother and father in Chicago. He tells his brother to come to
visiting day if he can.
James has dinner alone. He goes to lecture and gets his
first taste of the Twelve Step program and then goes back to his
room to play cards with his roommates. Larry has just found out
that he has HIV and is worried he gave it to his wife and kids.
That night James has a dream about sitting in front of a pile of
drugs, using them all, and enjoying the high. He wakes up, takes
a shower, and gets sick, as usual. Afterward he feels very emotional
and cries, thinking about his life. When he comes out of the bathroom
his roommates tell him that Larry has left, and no one knows where
James cleans the toilets. When he’s done, Roy gives him
a hard time about the state of the toilets yesterday and challenges
him. James feels trapped and angry. Something he calls the Fury
begins to rise in him and he throws Roy around in front of everyone.
James goes to his room and destroys everything he can before he
gets a sedative to calm down. He wakes up in a different room. Ken
brings two new people to visit him: Lincoln, his unit supervisor,
and Joanne, a staff psychologist. They talk about the incident with
Roy. James is instantly at odds with Lincoln. Joanne asks to speak
to him alone and offers to help. At lunch, Leonard introduces James
to two of his friends, Ed and Ted.
After lecture, Hank gives James a warm coat and a pair
of tennis balls (to squeeze if he is afraid or in pain) and drives
him to the dentist. James asks to hold the Babar book from the waiting
room during the procedure. The dentist tells James that he is not
allowed to have any painkillers because of his drug use, and he
must be strapped down to keep him from jerking around while the
procedure is going on. When the horrific scene is over, Hank drives
James back to the clinic. On the way, James passes out from the
James’s attempt to look himself in the eyes is an early
indicator of his desire to get better. He also feels regret for
the first time in the narrative. There’s the impression that James
is beginning to really consider his life and how he ended up in
his current position. At the dentist’s office we see even more humanity
emerge. James is struck by the sight of a little boy reading a book
that James himself enjoyed when he was a child, and he’s touched
by the way the boy’s mother protects him. James lets on that he’s
feeling guilty for putting his mother through any pain. At this
stage in the book, James is beginning to reveal his need to feel.
He has a real desire to experience emotions to the extreme. Frey
spends eight pages recounting the horrible experience of going through
two root canals, two tooth cappings, and a cavity filling without
Novocain. He is almost elated at this extreme sensation, after so
many years of not remembering or feeling anything. He is clearly
in shock after the procedure but refuses treatment, choosing to
feel the pain and agony. James welcomes these experiences as a vast
improvement over his previous feelings of apathy.
Another incidence of extreme emotion is James’s confrontation with
Roy. The rising tide of anger that he calls the Fury is obviously provoked
by feelings of entrapment. There are parts of him that try to deny
the Fury, but a large part of him enjoys the sensation of being
out of control. He feels no remorse after his confrontation with
Roy, and he paints Roy in such a way that the reader feels no remorse
either. James indicates his return to being a feeling human in smaller
ways, as well. When James hears that Larry has left the facility,
he has nothing but good thoughts about Larry, and even goes so far
as to send blessings Larry’s way. He identifies with Larry’s feelings
of remorse and guilt.
Three characters in this section provide a backdrop against which
James can measure his eventual return to humanity. Hank is the only
person thus far who has really asked if James is feeling okay. He
acknowledges James’s fears—even simple, childish ones like going
to the dentist—and validates them by recognizing them. He hears
that James has no real possessions and gets him a jacket to keep
him warm. He knows that he doesn’t have too much power to assuage
James’s pain at the dentist, but his gift of the tennis balls proves
to be one that really helps James at least to pretend that he can
handle the pain. Hank is also the first person to touch James in a
friendly way at the facility. His hug makes James feel a little uncomfortable,
but good, nonetheless. It’s a marked contrast from the way he feels
when his mother tries to hug him.
Leonard’s appearance in James’s life marks a new period
of making friends. Indeed, Leonard’s way of making friends seems
to be very much in line with James’s attitude toward anyone who approaches
him: be on guard, and be as disagreeable as possible. If the person
can still stand you, perhaps you were meant to be friends. His interactions
with Leonard may provide a foil for James’s other friendships. Finally,
James seems to gravitate toward Joanne’s method of dealing with
him, which is to stand back and allow him to come to her when she’s
needed. He makes a note of her office number and forces himself
to remember it. In sharp contrast is Lincoln, who personifies an
authority figure, and, in doing so, turns James off entirely.
In perusing the Babar book, he notes that, as a child,
he daydreamed that he and Babar used to travel the world, “kicking
some . . . ass.” This is a strange comment to make about a children’s
picture book, and it provides cause to wonder how James’s bravado colors
his telling of his own history. It flashes up again when the dental
assistant looks at him, and he repeats his famous sentence: “I am an
Alcoholic and I am a Drug Addict and I am a Criminal.” This sentence
is repeated several times in the book, and seems to be James’s way
of identifying himself. Here, he uses it to show that the dental assistant
sees him as the dregs of society—a bloody, disgusting, dangerous
mess. Between the Babar reference and this, James seems to be saying
that he is extremely dangerous and has been since childhood.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Million Little Pieces!