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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Marriage Plot

The novel is most amusing and fun when it is gently poking fun at its various characters and the social and academic strata they represent, very much in the same vein as Jane Austen novels. I don't even mind so much that the heroine, the sheltered, naive, and priviledged Madeleine, is not made to be very likable or sympathetic. The problem, I think, is the character Leonard, a dangerously charismatic bipolar patient who is socioeconomically below Madeleine's WASP background. His presence does not fit in the Austen-like tone of the rest of the book. He kind of screws up the entire novel because one cannot mock or satirize, even if kindly, someone who is in such a terrible situation through no fault of his own.

I much prefer the humors about university English department through Madeleine and the obligatory post-college spiritual journey of Mitchell. It was immediately obvious that Mitchell reflects the most of the author himself. I really enjoy the character's youthful earnestness and doubt.  Mitchell feels like the most authentic of the three, and his arc is the most believable and nuanced.

Perhaps because I am fairly close to bioscience research and mental illness, Eugenides' depiction of both aspects in Leonard (being a scientist and bipolar patient) seems well researched but not convincing. Thus Leonard's pull on Madeleine is also quite unconvincing.

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