I Am The Cheese probably isn’t the best choice when it comes to happy endings, because this book doesn’t even have a proper ending. The reader is left dangling on the edge of a cliff, but not really. Because imperative moralities are hidden throughout the book and we as readers are able to grasp a lot from it. I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier has many themes that could constantly be seen, one of which including different versions of reality, the significance of honesty, and appreciating what we have. This book is quite different from others, one is that it has two narratives and they alternate every chapter. Adam Farmer, the protagonist and the narrator in the story, is biking from Massachusetts to Vermont, hoping to find his dad. Now some people may consider this adventure as fun, to be alone, but this wasn’t the case for Adam. He was pretty much afraid of everything, from dogs to open spaces, and sometimes people. On the way, he thinks of his parents, which contained some pleasant memories but not all, and Amy Hertz, his girlfriend. Occasionally, he would also sing “The Farmer in the Dell”, a song his dad used to sing to him. This was a physical journey, but it was more of a mental journey through the past where he revives his traumatic childhood memories. Adam soon comes to the realization, with the help of Brint, the so-called psychiatrist, that all the events he thought were in his current life were actually in the past.
Reality isn’t what we think it is. Probably the least obvious theme in the book yet the one that stands out in terms of the context. “He was tired of pretending that nothing had happened, that the second birth certificate didn’t exist, that he had not listened to that phone call. He was tired of faking it, being a fake.” (Cormier, 116) Everyone around him was being fake, lying to others, and most importantly, lying to themselves. Adam was the only person living in his own reality at the moment and he knew nothing was real. “He was amazed at the deceptions that had been carried on by his parents through the years.” (149) He loved his parents, and he knew his parents loved him as well. They used to be a happy family who would rely on each other and have fun together, like a typical family would. But that was before Adam discovered the truth, and he learns that reality wasn’t as good as he thought it would be. Adam here, experiences a similar disclosure with Charlie Gordon in Flowers for Algernon. Charlie is a mentally disabled man and through an experimental surgery, he hopes to improve his intelligence level. All he wished for was to be like other people, but when his intelligence does match up to the others’, Charlie comes to the realization that it may not been as great as he expected. As his intelligence continues to improve, he discovers being smart doesn’t necessarily make life better, but it instead makes it even worse. Both Adam and Charlie face their harsh realities in the end, but sometimes we do as well. This theme may seem quite negative, and it is in some ways, as it had sparked up a lot of controversy ever since it had been published. But people today often expect too much from someone or something, and end up being disappointed with the turnout. Sometimes we just need to face reality and accept the truth.
Any lie is a betrayal is definitely the main idea the author was trying to convey. This theme can be seen throughout the entire novel as Adam learns the truth of his past. Adam was basically lied to his entire life, by his parents. He never really knew why they were often on the run, as if someone was after them, but he didn’t question. “They’ve been lying to me, he thought with horror. All my life, they’ve been lying to me…” (74) Can you imagine what it would feel like being lied to your whole life? Probably not, because you know your true identity, your real name, and that your parents wouldn’t lie to you. Adam Farmer wasn’t really Adam Farmer. His real name was Paul Demonte, and he had two birth certificates. When his dad finally explained everything to the clueless him, the truth was far more shocking and discomforting than he had expected it to be. His father was a witness to government corruption and the whole family was in danger, therefore their identities were completely changed. Mr. Grey is the man who comes to Adam’s house every month, but because he was always a part of their lives, he almost seemed invisible, thus the name Grey. We actually don’t know who Grey really was, whether he was lying to the family or helping them. This adds to the already existing sense of suspicion that wouldn’t have been there if the lies were out in the open. “Adam was amazed at his ability to lie, the way his mind had been quick to invent a new set of circumstances for himself and his parents. But he wondered why? Why is it necessary to lie?” (54) Adam knows lying wasn’t the solution to a problem, yet he had lied without even thinking about it. Everybody lies, that’s no exception. But do we know to admit the truth or do we continue to lie to cover our other lies? Because when the layers of lies start stacking on one another, it’s going to be hard to take them down one by one. More importantly, who you lie to is going to be hurt, betrayed, and deceived. “There was nothing to be suspicious about, until I became suspicious of everything.” (109) Consequently, Adam becomes suspicious of everything around him, simply because his parents had kept him from the truth all these years. It is near impossible being honest all the time, but people need to recognize the fact that honesty is a vital part of human connection.
Don’t take things for granted, the final theme, and the one that teachers the reader an extremely important lesson. This moral applies to anyone, including myself, although most people have probably heard of this one before. Most of us have homes, clothes, and food, but most importantly, we have our families. At times, we want our parents and siblings to leave us alone, but when we need them, they’re always there. We don’t know how lucky we are being able to control our own lives, because look at Adam’s family. “We were like puppets, you’re your mother, and I,” his father said. “As if we had no control over our lives. And we didn’t, of course.” (133) They were told how to live their lives and what their names should be. Just like us, Adam is trying to figure out who he really is, but it’s just that somebody is deciding that for him. “I sat there looking at the clipping and thought, I’m dead. I’ve already died.” (135) Everyone in Blount, New York, thinks his family was killed in a car accident because of the fake newspaper article Grey had arranged to be published. All of this was settled by Grey and his men, because Adam and his parents had no choice but to go with the flow. They have absolutely no power and control over their own lives, while most of us do. Of course, cherishing doesn’t necessarily have to be over belongings or physical objects, it can be something we depend on in our everyday lives. Memory is a precious thing; Adam feels confused and lost because he can’t recall his memories. Most people don’t think about what it would feel like to being able to remember, because they do it so often that they forget to be grateful.
This book had stirred up quite a bit of controversy since it had been published, but it had also won a number of awards. I personally found it confusing at first with the switching of the narratives, however it was actually an intriguing read. The author decides to leave us with an ambiguous ending and we don’t know exactly what happens with Adam, or Paul Demonte. It provoked so many questions and emotions yet it taught the reader several valuable lessons. We as readers are able to take the ideas of accepting our fates and reality, lying leads to consequences, and being appreciative of what we have.