Maniac Magee Theme Essay Prompts

Essay Topic 1

Chapter 14 ends with this quote, "Inside a house a kid gets one name, but on the other side of the door, it's whatever the rest of the world wants to call him." How and why does Maniac wear one "mask" inside and one outside? How does this apply to all of mankind?

Essay Topic 2

Maniac Magee wonders why Black people are described as being black. How would Maniac rather they be described and what does this say about how Maniac views the stereotype?

Essay Topic 3

How and why does Maniac take on the raising of Russell and Piper? Why does he have influence over them? What does this say about Maniac's character?

Essay Topic 4

What is the theme of the book concerning race? How is the theme expressed? What do the characters learn about race by the end of the novel?

Essay Topic 5

Why is Maniac...

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Maniac Magee Theme of Friendship

When Maniac Magee arrives in Two Mills, he doesn't have a friend in the world. Not even an imaginary one. So, is he searching for friends or a family? Can you have one without the other? The friends he makes and the friends he almost doesn't make (Mars Bar, anyone?) are important stopovers on his journey to a family. In fact, you could even say that, since none of the family that Maniac collects over the course of his journey is related to him by blood, his family ties all begin as friendships. Learning the give and take, how to trust and treat people, is what lets Maniac ultimately find his family and trust in their love—and it's what gives Maniac Magee its happy ending.

Questions About Friendship

  1. Do you think Maniac had friends when he lived in Hollidaysburg with Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan? Why or why not?
  2. Why Amanda Beale? Are you surprised that she's his first real friend in the story?
  3. Is Grayson Maniac's friend or father figure? Can he be both?
  4. Is Maniac a good friend to Amanda? Does the answer to this question change at different parts of the story?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Maniac isn't always the best friend, especially to Amanda. The isolation he experienced living with his freezing cold Aunt and Uncle has left him more than a little self centered, and sometimes he has trouble recognizing what others are feeling—a pretty important part of friendship.

Without friends, Maniac wouldn't have family. His success at meeting people and getting them to like him means more than how many Facebook friends he could have: it determines whether or not he's going to get a family.

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