Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid Summary

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is, on the surface, the story of Greg Heffley, a young middle-schooler, who takes on the curse of the Cheese Touch to save his friend. On a deeper level, the story is about his relationship with his family and his best friend in his quest for popularity. Told through a series of journal entries, this is an epistolary story. This particular story seeks to impart lessons learned at this age, such as loyalty.

The book opens at the start of Greg’s first year of middle school. He writes about the Cheese Touch, a cooties-like game that originated in his previous school year. As the last person “infected” with the Cheese Touch moved away over the summer–and Greg attributes the move to the harm to that student’s reputation–he fears the game’s resurgence. He’s determined that this year, he will be popular.

Greg’s adventures over the course of his school year range from bad to good in his quest for popularity. In the school play, he refuses to sing because his brother filmed the performance. He creates a haunted house in his friend Rowley Jefferson’s basement, which gets him into trouble. Greg accidentally breaks Rowley’s hand with a football in another scene. In a popularity-boost, he manages to get the job as the cartoonist for his school paper—but he hid applications he thought surpassed his in order to get it. He later loses interest, and Rowley takes over the job.

Greg and Rowley’s friendship is a focus in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Despite the fact that Greg is often critical of Rowley and tries to get him to behave differently, Greg is certain that they are the best of friends. This friendship is cast aside after Greg lets Rowley take the blame for bullying a group of kindergartners, even though it was Greg, not Rowley. Before that, Greg convinced Rowley to join him pestering some high school kids on Halloween, which causes them both trouble later in the year.

Greg is angry with Rowley for taking over the job as cartoonist and confronts him about it on the basketball court. Other students gather, anticipating a fight, but that is prevented when a group of teenagers arrive–the same teenagers that Rowley taunted at Greg’s insistence on Halloween. They are on the same basketball court where the dreaded cheese of the infamous Cheese Touch sits, moldy and spoiled. It’s been sitting there for over a year, but the teenagers make Rowley eat it. Concerned that if news of this gets around, Rowley will have to move away, Greg finally steps up for his friend. When other students discover the cheese missing, he doesn’t tell them Rowley ate it. Instead, he tells them that he got tired of it being there, so he threw it away. The other students decide Greg is infected with the Cheese Touch, but Rowley’s reputation is saved.

The themes of the book are represented by symbols. For example, the cheese is a symbol of stress for the students in Greg’s school, because it represents potential unpopularity. For Greg, the threat of the cheese means potentially having to move away, out of state. Representing conflict between Greg and his father, his video game system is a symbol of contention in that his father always wants him to stop playing video games and be more active. Greg fears throughout the book that his father will learn how to take the video game system apart and take it away from him. The bouquet of flowers Greg’s mom throws out after the school play is a symbol of disappointment. She had brought the flowers for Greg but, after he disrupts the play by refusing to sing, that hope is dashed, and instead of giving him the bouquet, she throws it away. Just as the cheese is a symbol of social ruin, the hot chocolate is a symbol of prestige among Greg and his peers. The hot chocolate is provided as a reward for safety patrols. The desire to retain that prestige is what prompts Greg to throw Rowley under the bus for tormenting the kindergartners with worms.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid won the Blue Peter Book Award in 2012, and was adapted into a movie in 2010 after appearing on the New York Times’ bestseller list. The author, Jeff Kinney, appears in the movie as Holly Hills’ father. In college, Kinney created the comic strip Igdoof, which appeared in The Diamondback, the newspaper for University of Maryland at College Park. Diary of a Wimpy Kid launched a franchise that includes more than a handful of sequels that have spent time on bestsellers lists. Films of several of the sequels have been made and released in subsequent years.