Freak the Mighty Themes, Symbols and Motifs

Freak the Mighty Themes, Symbols and Motifs
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Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick Activities

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Lesson Plans by Liane Hicks

Freak the Mighty is a popular novel written in 1993. It tells the story of Max Kane, a seventh grader who is formidable in stature but struggles with an undiagnosed learning disability and the trauma of losing his mother to violence at a young age. Max's new neighbor Kevin "Freak" Avery appears to be the polar opposite. Freak is extremely small and has a voracious love of learning coupled with an impressive vocabulary that stumps even their teachers! Freak's size is due to a rare genetic disorder that makes it difficult for him to walk. After striking up a friendship, Max takes to carrying Freak up on his shoulders and thus, "Freak the Mighty" is born: ready to embark on quests, slay dragons, aid damsels in distress, and navigate the ever treacherous world of middle school!

Freak the Mighty

Storyboard Description

Students can track the different themes, symbols and motifs present in Freak the Mighty and create a spider map that labels, defines and illustrates them.

Storyboard Text

  • "I want you to fill it up with our adventures."
  • "I could tell you all the medical terminology, but what finally happened is his heart just got too big for his body."
  • "We're Freak the Mighty, that's who we are. We're nine feet tall, in case you haven't noticed." That's how it started, really, how we got to be Freak the Mighty, slaying dragons and fools and walking high above the world"
  • Before he goes for his "operation", Kevin gives Max a blank notebook and tells him to "fill it up with our adventures". In this way, Kevin shows Max that he believes in him and his ability to write. He also offers Max a way to remember him and their special times together. Without Max realizing it at the time, it also gives him a way to process his grief.
  • Freak/Kevin has "Morquio syndrome", which is a rare genetic condition that affects a child's bones and spine, organs and physical abilities. Kevin's organs continued growing while his skeletal system remained small. This is what caused him many health problems.
  • Kevin and Max develop an unlikely friendship. At first, Max is dumbfounded by Kevin's huge vocabulary and his physical differences. However he soon finds that Kevin is the most interesting person he's ever met and they form a close bond. They both lift each other up in different ways - even literally!
  • FREAK THE MIGHTYThemes, Symbols & Motifs
  • Kevin gives Max a dictionary for Christmas. It is a hand-written book of all his favorite words along with insightful and humorous definitions. Since they bonded over storytelling, learning to read, and Freak increasing Max's vocabulary, this is a meaningful gift from the heart.
  • Max witnessed the violent loss of his mother at the hands of his father at the tender age of four. His trauma reveals itself in different ways: lashing out at school since pre-school, earning him the nickname "kicker", difficulty learning, nightmares, and being fearful of trusting or befriending anyone until "Freak" comes along.
  • Max suffered losing both his mother and his father to violence at a young age. He has been cared for by his grandparents who, too, are grieving the loss of their daughter. Kevin's father left when he was a baby apparently because of his medical issues and is raised by his single mother. However, together they form a loving and supportive family.
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