by Jonathan Franzen
Family Quotes in Freedom
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
As much as possible, though, Patty sat with her father, held his hand, and allowed herself to love him. She could almost physically feel her emotional organs rearranging themselves, bringing her self-pity plainly into view at last, in its full obscenity, like a hideous purple-red growth on her that needed to be cut out. Spending so much time listening to her father make fun of everything, albeit a little more feebly each day, she was disturbed to see how much like him she was, and why her own children weren't more amused by her capacity for amusement, and why it would have been better to have forced herself to see more of her parents in the critical years of her own parenthood, so as to better understand her kids' response to her. Her dream of creating a fresh life, entirely from scratch, entirely independent, had been just that: a dream. She was her father's daughter. (2.4.32)
This passage is pretty much self-explanatory, and it follows on the heels of the passage we just discussed above. We also want to point out, though, how closely linked it is to a line in the fifth paragraph of the book, where Franzen writes, "One strange thing about Patty, given her strong family orientation, was that she had no discernible connection to her roots" (2.1.5). When we first read that line, we knew very little about Patty. Now that we know her very well, how does it change our understanding of that initial introduction? (Also, as a side note, why is it that these fence-mending reunions often seem only possible at the end of a parent's life? Can't we decide to make amends in good health?)
"Oh, Abigail!" Patty burst out. "We're never going to get along, are we."
Perhaps catching a hint of pity in her voice, Abigail pulled a stupid-face, a mean face. "I'm not the one who ran away," she said. "I'm not the one who turned her nose up, and could never take a joke, and married Mr. Superhuman Good Guy Minnesotan Righteous Weirdo Naturelover, and didn't even pretend not to hate us. You think you're doing so well, you think you're so superior, and now Mr. Superhuman Good Guy's dumped you for some inexplicable reason that obviously has nothing to do with your sterling personal qualities, and you think you can come back and be Miss Lovable-Congenial Goodwill Ambassador Florence Nightingale. It's all verrrry interesting."
Patty made sure to take several breaths before replying to this. "Like I said," she said, "I don't think you and I are ever going to get along." (2.4.56)
For most of Patty's life, she seems terrified of and overmatched by her sisters. Having gone through the crucible, as it were, of her own family's struggles, she's now risen above her sisters' pettiness, and Abigail's barbs no longer bother her.