By Robert Cormier (A+) Essay, Research Paper
I am the Cheese
By Robert Cormier
I am the Cheese is a compelling and unconventional novel. The novel’s major strengths include the uses of a powerful theme, an intriguing title, and sophisticated writing techniques. It has three levels of narration that are interdependent, and yet keep the reader in a permanent state of confusion. Robert Cormier manages to create a puzzling, disturbing atmosphere for the most part of the novel, which fits in well with the theme of the book. He effectively reveals the theme, which is a revelation about the lies in our depraved society, with the use of manipulation and complex writing techniques. The title of the novel is also a extension of the book’s message, which contributes to the intensity of the story.
In I am the Cheese, the main theme of the story deals with a weak, individual teenager facing the Establishment, and confronting the evil and lies which exists in our society. It is a story about the fight of the individual against a system where the lines between friend and enemy are blurred. An illustration of this would be Adam’s acquaintance with Mr. Grey and Brint. The reader cannot clearly label these mysterious people as good or bad. Although Adam and his family are under their total control, not much is known about who these people are, and what are their real motives. This novel exposes the fact that we are surrounded by secrets and lies, and because there are so many layers of reality, we are never sure what is the ultimate truth. A situation which describes this arises when Adam’s father changes his identity after discovering a conspiracy, and keeps this secret away from Adam to protect him. The outstanding theme of I Am The Cheese is slowly revealed through the puzzling story of a bicycle ride, the interview tapes, and particularly in the last pages in the book. The author’s purpose is to get inside each individual reader and force them to form their own opinions on good, evil, and what is right or wrong. The reader would surely come away from this book with questions about our world, how we live in it, and deliberations on how corrupt it really is.
The theme of the novel reveals that in this case, it is not a question of good against evil, but simply that the “cheese stands alone.”Adam is the lone individual against the power of the government and the criminal syndicates, which makes the title of this book is an forceful one, because it recapitulates the theme of the novel. The song “The Farmer in the Dell,” which contains the lyrics from the title, is a meaningful song for Adam, who often reminisces about his father. ” It’s our song,’ he says. I can remember how he’d pick me up when I was just a kid and swing me almost to the ceiling, singing…”(P29) The title of this novel, I am the Cheese, is associated intriguingly to the complex story. The verses of the song are a series of links, and in the same way, Adam is the last in a series of links from organized crime, to the corrupted government, to a low form of existence. Adam has been drugged and is under the complete power, both emotionally and physically, of Brint and the mysterious institution which has the ability to decide his fate. When he is in such a despondent position, what does he really have left to lose? Even Adam can accept his predestined doom: “I know, who I am, who I will always be. I am the cheese.” (P217)
The perplexing title of this book is an extension of the mood in this novel, which is somewhat ambivalent, due to the shifts from a perpetuating bike ride, to confusing, personal flashbacks and stoical interviews with Brint. The readers would feel uneasy as they follow Adam on his bike ride and the interview tapes, as if some things did not seem right in the plot. By the time we reach the climax and the denouement, where we learn the fate of Adam and his parents, a darkest and most sinister atmosphere is communicated through Adam’s tragic memories, such as the death of his mother. “She stared at him with startled eyes but she was not really staring at him because Adam knew the eyes were sightless, vacant. She was dead, irrevocably dead, the knowledge irrefutable as he lay on the pavement now….”(P207) As the example displays, this is a frightening novel which makes the reader as afraid to go forward as the protagonist is. The ending is a strong facet of the novel, as it leaves the reader disturbed and breathless. The truth which lies underneath is not expected and certainly not a usual ending in a novel.
To create such an intense atmosphere in I am the Cheese, the author used a variety of writing techniques. These fascinating and extremely sophisticated methods assist the novel in manoeuvring the readers, and disintegrating the distinction between reality and hallucination. An instance of this occurs in the denouement of the novel. The reader learns that the bike ride had just been a figment of Adam’s imagination, interlaced with impressions from the real people around him. In an effective and unique technique, the writer throws a blinding shadow on an entire book with the last interview transcription. Suddenly, the most inconsequential clues come together, and reveal the secrets that are hidden underneath. The story is full of blank spaces which provide hidden meanings that come together like a jigsaw puzzle at the end. Uncertainties such as why Adam is unable to contact Amy, or what Adam is carrying to his father on his adventure, are all neatly resolved. The author’s writing techniques, which include flashbacks, give way for alternative turns and endings to I am the Cheese. The conclusion could have been completely different, but this particular one is powerful since it is unbelievably lifelike and horrifying.
In conclusion, I am the Cheese is a powerful, unique novel which deals with the morbid realities of life. It provides the reader with ideas to contemplate about our society, the facts which are kept from us, and the individual struggle against the Establishment. The elements which make up this impressive story include a prominent theme and title, the use of captivating techniques, and a complex mood. Robert Cormier has accomplished a stunning, memorable novel, and subsequent reading will fascinate the reader with new insight hidden between the lines.