by Jonathan Franzen
Depression Quotes in Freedom
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
Katz had read extensively in popular sociobiology, and his understanding of the depressive personality type and its seemingly perverse persistence in the human gene pool was that depression was a successful adaptation to ceaseless pain and hardship. Pessimism, feelings of worthlessness and lack of entitlement, inability to derive satisfaction from pleasure, a tormenting awareness of the world's general crappiness: for Katz's Jewish paternal forebears, who'd been driven from shtetl to shtetl by implacable anti-Semites, as for the old Angles and Saxons on his mother's side, who'd labored to grow rye and barley in the poor soils and short summer of northern Europe, feeling bad all the time and expecting the worst had been natural ways of equilibrating themselves with the lousiness of their circumstances. Few things gratified depressives, after all, more than really bad news. (3.1.3)
So here's the theory that a depressive disposition is not only inherited, but an evolutionary development to help cope with painful life situations. What do you think?
He wasn't worried about having given offense; his business was giving offense. He was worried about having sounded pathetic – too transparently the washed-up talent whose only recourse was to trash his betters. He strongly disliked the person he'd just demonstrated afresh that he unfortunately was. And this, of course, was the simplest definition of depression that he knew of: strongly disliking yourself. (3.1.101)
Do you agree with this claim? We'd say that Patty's example supports it, but Connie's example contradicts it. And what about Walter and Joey? Actually, come to think about it, what about Richard? Does he really seem like a guy who "strongly dislikes" himself?
Walter shook his head grimly. "I've been living with a depressed person for a very long time now. I don't know why she's so unhappy, I don't know why she can't seem to get out of it. There was a little while, around the time we moved to Washington, when she seemed to be doing better. She'd seen a therapist in St. Paul who got her started on some kind of writing project. Some kind of personal history or life journal that she was very mum and secretive about. As long as she was working on that, things weren't so bad. But for the last two years they've been pretty much all bad. (3.1.375)
Walter's comment suggests that her writing project allowed Patty to step back and revisit the events in her life, examine her choices, and consider her actions in terms of her intentions. It also implies that this process was the one thing that freed her from her prison of self-pity and self-doubt. It's a personal enactment of the familial reunion she has at the end of the book, revisiting the people from her past. (Please excuse the similarity to Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," because it really isn't like that. OK, maybe a little.)