As the word "frindle" captures the imaginations of Nick's classmates and eventually, the imaginations of others across the nation, Nick finds himself thrust suddenly into the limelight. He finds the attention exciting at first, though it soon becomes difficult to manage the responsibility of having created an entirely new word. As Nick navigates the difficult landscape of being briefly famous, he's forced to decide what he should do with his fame. Ultimately, Nick's decisions suggest that being famous comes with a great deal of responsibility to give back and support one's community so that they too have access to the opportunities that allowed Nick to become famous in the first place.
Though Nick is at first only a local hero among a few of his classmates for standing up to their fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Granger, in the space of a few weeks, Nick is suddenly giving interviews, appearing on television, and unbeknownst to him, earning money for his invention. The narrator notes that Nick has always enjoyed his status as a charismatic troublemaker and he's always gotten attention for it, but the amount of attention he earns for coining "frindle" as the new term for “pen” is something entirely new—and not something he finds easy to deal with. Nick discovers that because of his fame, people expect him to be witty and pushing the envelope all the time, something he finds unsustainable in the long run. This leads Nick to withdraw, become very quiet, and realize that fame comes with consequences. He recognizes, in other words, that his fame flattens him in the eyes of others into someone who is only a witty and charming troublemaker, not a complex individual.
This realization that fame can have negative consequences makes Nick question some of the other ideas that he has, most notably his hunch that if he and all his classmates boycott the horrible cafeteria food, they'll be able to negotiate for more appetizing school lunches. Rather than see this as something doable and simple as he once might have, after his experiences promoting "frindle," Nick fears that he'll be punished or accused of stirring up trouble if he were to speak up about the cafeteria food and attract attention once again. This suggests that Nick recognizes that his actions have consequences, and that he needs to accept this if he wishes to organize and push back on established systems of power. However, when Mrs. Granger notices that Nick has become quiet and withdrawn, she counsels him to not let the discomfort he experienced as a result of his fame stop him from coming up with ideas and putting them out there. Essentially, she encourages him to accept the responsibility of his fame and use it for good, rather than letting it hobble him.
Unbeknownst to Nick, his fame affects his family as well, first in a negative way and later, in a positive one. Nick's dad is completely overwhelmed by his son's sudden and widespread fame, so when the local businessman Bud Lawrence approaches him about buying the rights to "frindle" from Nick, Mr. Allen makes the problem go away as quickly as he can. Mr. Allen sets up a savings trust for Nick and arranges for Bud Lawrence's royalty payments to route directly to the account, rather than go through the family or require constant attention. It's important to note that the fact that Nick earns money from his invented word at all makes it clear that fame can be more than a burden—the account is set up so that, in the future, Nick will be able to reap the rewards of his fame, even if his father is bewildered by it all at first.
When Nick turns 21 and assumes control of the account, however, his uses for the money demonstrate that he recognizes the importance of helping others learn the lessons that, eventually, led to his success. In addition to generously giving money to his family members, Nick sets up a million-dollar scholarship fund in Mrs. Granger's name. In doing so, Nick reinforces the novel's assertions that changing language is a communal effort and should therefore benefit the community, suggesting that fame is best when put to use to enact positive change and to meaningfully help others.
Responsibility and Fame ThemeTracker
Responsibility and Fame Quotes in Frindle
Or this bit about Nick: "Everyone agrees that Nick Allen masterminded this plot that cleverly raises issues about free speech and academic rules. He is the boy who invented the new word."
He could feel it when someone recognized him, and it made him shy and awkward.
Kids at school started expecting him to be clever and funny all the time, and even for a kid as smart as Nick, that was asking a lot.
"I have always said that the dictionary is the finest tool ever made for educating young minds, and I still say that. Children need to understand that there are rules about words and language, and that those rules have a history that makes sense. And to pretend that a perfectly good English word can be replaced by a silly made-up word just for the fun of it, well, it's not something I was ready to stand by and watch without a fight."
"Well," said Nick, "The funny thing is, even though I invented it, it's not my word anymore. Frindle belongs to everyone now, and I guess everyone will figure out what happens together."
But then Nick remembered what had happened with frindle. It stopped him cold. He was sure that if all the kids stopped buying lunch, sooner or later someone would figure out that it was all Nick Allen's idea. He would get in trouble. People would write about it in the newspaper. The principal would call his parents—anything could happen.