I Am the Messenger

I Am the Messenger

by

Markus Zusak

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I Am the Messenger Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Markus Zusak's I Am the Messenger. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak was born in Sydney in 1975 to German and Austrian immigrant parents. He studied English and History at the University of New South Wales and worked as a high school teacher before gaining international success for his novels. He began writing as a teenager, and his first novel, The Underdog, was published in 1999. He wrote two sequels to his first novel before garnering greater mainstream success for his Young Adult novel I Am the Messenger in 2002. In 2006, he published his most successful book, The Book Thief, which received international acclaim and was later adapted into the film by the same name. Zusak currently lives and writes in Sydney, Australia.
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Historical Context of I Am the Messenger

In the early 1990s, Australia experienced its greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, resulting in 11.4% unemployment and a general discontentment and loss of financial confidence among Australians. The 1990s also saw a major change in Australia’s population demographics, with nearly 1 in 4 Australians coming from overseas. These dynamics of change and deprivation are reflected in the plot of I Am the Messenger, with many of the people Ed Kennedy helps living in poverty or dealing with related economic and social stresses. Indeed, Ed himself is from a poor neighborhood where many people struggle to find jobs and drug use, violence, and family instability are common.

Other Books Related to I Am the Messenger

Markus Zusak’s most successful work is The Book Thief, another Young Adult novel, though that book is set in Germany during World War II. Zusak has said that one of his favorite novels, and an important influence on his writing style, is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Additionally, one of the missions in I Am the Messenger is connected to the book The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, which concerns a young woman struggling with mental illness.
Key Facts about I Am the Messenger
  • Full Title: I Am the Messenger (originally published in Australia as The Messenger)
  • When Written: 1999-2002
  • Where Written: Sydney, Australia
  • When Published: 2002
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Fiction
  • Setting: Suburban Australia
  • Climax: Ed realizes a stranger has been dictating his entire life for the past year.
  • Antagonist: The Man with the Cards, Ordinariness
  • Point of View: First-person limited

Extra Credit for I Am the Messenger

The Parking Spot. Zusak first had the idea to write I Am the Messenger when he noticed a 15-minute parking spot outside a bank. He wondered what would happen if someone was parked in that spot during a bank robbery, thus leading him to write the first scene in the novel, in which this happens to the characters.

Good Dog. The main character’s smelly mutt is based on an actual Rottweiler/German Shepherd mutt Zusak knew. However, Zusak has said that the real-life dog only “stank about a quarter as much” as its fictional counterpart.