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Literature / I Am the Cheese

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A 14-year-old boy is riding around on his bike, trying to get to his dad, who is in the hospital in a faraway city. Meanwhile, the same boy is sitting in some kind of interrogation room in a mental hospital, trying to remember his life before the hospital.

A 1977 young adult novel by Robert Cormier, I Am the Cheese is the emotional Mind Screw story of one Adam Farmer, who's afraid of everything, has to take medication, and is in love with a girl named Amy.

Adapted into a 1983 film directed by Robert Jiras and starring Robert MacNaughton, Cynthia Nixon, Robert Wagner, Hope Lange, and Don Murray.


I Am the Tropes:

  • Downer Ending: It's strongly implied that the Government Conspiracy feels Adam has outlasted his usefulness. Brint recommends that Adam be confined until termination is approved, or until he "obliterates."
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  • The Film of the Book: One was made in 1983.
  • Gag Boobs: Adam spends quite a bit of time gushing about the size of Amy Hertz's breasts.
  • The Hero Dies: Implied that Adam is going to be offed not long after the ending.
  • I Am the Noun: I Am the Cheese (from the song, The Farmer in the Dell).
  • In the End, You Are on Your Own: "I am the cheese." Because...
  • Literary Allusion Title: In The Farmer in the Dell, "the cheese stands alone".
  • MacGuffin: Adam is looking for his dad (who is dead.) The government is looking for "the package" and whatever info Adam is hiding.
  • The Men in Black: Adam describes someone as "the grey man", a government spook dressed all in grey.
  • Mind Screw: Adam never left the mental hospital. Instead, he is riding his bike around the grounds, and seeing the same people each time (see And You Were There above) and stuck in a mental time loop.
  • My Parents Are Dead: Adam watched his mother die. His father escaped, but the goons mocked Adam that they "never miss" and they'll get his dad too. He learns from Dr. Dupont's expression that his father was killed too.
  • No Medication for Me: At the beginning of the book, Adam dumps all his pills down his sink. He tries to avoid medication from Brint as well, but Adam resists less as the book progresses.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Adam, which is why he insists "I am the cheese." (The cheese stands alone.)
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The Farmer In the Dell is the Delmonte family's theme song. When singing it in the car, the lyrics they sing are "The farmer takes a wife", "The wife takes the child", and "The cheese stands alone".
  • Title Drop: When Brint calls Adam by his real name (Paul), Adam says he has no idea who that is, and states, "I am the cheese."
  • Truth Serum: When Adam thinks about whether to tell Brint about "the clues", Brint asks "What clues?" Adam wonders if the doctor read his mind or if the "medicine" is making him believe he is thinking when he is actually talking out loud.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Adam never left the mental hospital. Everything is Through the Eyes of Madness.
  • Witness Protection: The Farmer family is a part of this. It's later revealed that their real last name is Delmonte.

Alternative Title(s): I Am The Cheese