A Graduate Student's Questions on I Am the Cheese

Janet Mitzner's letter to Robert Cormier 3 February 1978

Janet Mitzner's letter to Robert Cormier 3 February 1978

In her three-page, single-spaced letter, Janet Mitzner identifies herself as a doctoral student who did a close reading of I Am the Cheese. After detailing her unproductive quest to reach him by telephone, she writes her questions about his  use of the childhood song “Farmer in the Dell” in the novel. She details other questions over the book and it appears this may have been a first brush for her of “realistic fiction” – the currently very popular YA literature genre Cormier is credited with helping to firmly establish.

Letter from Robert Cormier to Janet Mitzner

Letter from Robert Cormier to Janet Mitzner

Surface features of this fragile document are striking: The thin onion skin paper, the smoothed out wrinkles, and the torn off bottom section of the letter. We have a page-and-a-half of Cormier’s thoughtful single-spaced considerations shared with Mitzner; although, since there is no salutation unlike his other letters, we think that page one may be misplaced or perhaps, destroyed given the condition of this remnant of the letter. Always the gentleman, Cormier entertains her questions and, interestingly, proposes that his interpretations, her interpretations, and those of other people are equally valid. His letter addresses the tension-producing ambiguity present in I Am the Cheese and speaks to a larger issue of readers seeking so-called right answers when confronted with complicated and enigmatic literary situations.

Related Links:

Wanted in College Graduates: Tolerance for Ambiguity by Jeff Selingo
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/wanted-college-graduates-tolerance-ambiguity-jeff-selingo

Tolerating ambiguity -- being OK with not knowing! By Miriam Giguere TEDx Solebury School
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ0tS2vBEIA