I am the Cheese


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