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by Jonathan Franzen

Family Quotes in Freedom

How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #4

Important fact: Richard had no relationship with his mom. [...] After four raucous years of drinking and serial infidelity, she stuck Mr. Katz with the job of raising their son (first in the Village, later in Yonkers) while she went off to California and found Jesus and brought forth four more kids. Mr. Katz quit playing music but not, alas, drinking. He ended up working for the postal service and never remarrying, and it's safe to say that his various young girlfriends, in the years before drink finally ruined him, did little to provide the stabilizing maternal presence that Richard needed. (2.3.117)

It's not difficult to connect this passage to Richard's difficulties with commitment and fidelity. The "various young girlfriends" in his father's life are certainly echoed in Richard's own promiscuity. But he may take after his mother more, whose "drinking and serial infidelity" is accompanied by a wandering instinct (similar to the one Katz finds after his success) and a spiritual relationship (hers in Jesus, his in music).

Quote #5

For the prosecution: Walter was appropriately wary. Patty was the one who tracked him down in Hibbing and threw herself at him.

For the defense: But she was trying to be good and make a good life! And then she forsook all others and worked hard to be a great mom and homemaker.

For the prosecution: Her motives were bad. She was competing with her mom and sisters. She wanted her kids to be a reproach to them. (2.3.181-183)

Patty brings this up a few times: that she's actually not a very good person, and that at least part of why she marries Walter is she hopes some of his goodness will magically rub off on her. (Unsurprisingly, since she goes in with such questionable motives, this method doesn't seem to be working.)

Quote #6

"Never mind Connie even," Carol said. "Leave Connie out of it for a minute. You and I lived together like a family for almost two years. I never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but I'm starting to get an idea of what you put your mom through. Seriously. I never understood how cold you are until this fall. (3.2.47)

A few examples in the novel suggest that the word "family" is not necessarily limited to blood relatives. Walter and Richard's friendship comes to mind.  Patty's relationship with her estranged brother offers a counter-example – a family member who's basically a stranger. This conversation between Carol and Joey is perhaps the best example, and her uncomfortably close relationship with Joey helps her empathize with a woman she had long hated, Patty.

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