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The corruption of government and manipulation of its citizens
Although it is not entirely apparent until the conclusion of this novel, it is a work about how the government has corrupt agents and does not always have the best interests of its citizens in mind.
Throughout this novel, Adam is trying to find out who he really is. The idea that the Farmer family is part of the witness protection program, in which their entire identities have been redefined, suggests government manipulation of who we really are as humans--and its far-reaching power to control us. As a result of government action the real Adam Farmer--Paul Delmonte-- has been killed. Adam repeatedly asks himself who he really is. The government, in an effort to benefit its own agency--drugs Adam thus, making him lose all of his memories. They leave him with no identity at all. Next, they will “terminate” him. Individuals have no value to the government.
There are three references to homosexuality in this novel. We first see it when Adam recalls how Amy sent love letters, impersonating a make student, to an overly masculine teacher. Then we see the bullies drive a pink car. Finally, encounters Arthur, who is obviously a homosexual.
It is possible that Cormier is subtly linking the outward appearance homosexuality with Adam’s inward feelings of vulnerability. When he remembers Amy’s prank, he is unsure of who he is and about to try to find out. When the pink car confronts him, he is knocked down into a ditch. When he meets Arthur, he is without his bike.
Once we realize that all of these incidents (except for Amy’s prank) occurred in a deluded state, it becomes apparent that effeminizing these characters was Adam’s way of defeating them. This is not something he can do in real life.
The mood of this story is one of suspense. Like Adam, the reader must fill in the blanks as he or she goes along. We do not know whom we can trust. As it turns out, not even the narrator is believable.
I Am the Cheese is a suspense novel. In this type of plot, the reader is given only enough information to understand what is immediately happening. Frequently, the main character does not understand what is going on either. As new information is introduced the protagonist and the reader learn about it together.