by Jonathan Franzen
Family Quotes in Freedom
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
And Patty was undeniably very into her son. Thought Jessica was the more obvious credit to her parents – smitten with books, devoted to wildlife, not so pretty as to be morally deformed by it, admired even by Merrie Paulsen – Joey was the child Patty could not shut up about. In her chuckling, confiding, self-deprecating way, she spilled out barrel after barrel of unfiltered detail about her and Walter's difficulties with him. Most of her stories took the form of complaints, and yet nobody doubted that she adored the boy. She was like a woman bemoaning her gorgeous boyfriend. As if she were proud of having her heart trampled by him: as if her openness to this trampling were the main thing, maybe the only thing, she cared to have the world know about. (1.1.10)
Wow guys, doesn't Jessica sound awesome? We'd really like to hang out with her. In fact, we'd like to call the Berglund house, and Patty would pick up the phone, and she'd be like, "Oh, would you like to talk to Joey?" And we'd say, "No, actually, we're calling for Jessica." And she's say, "Wait, Jessica, really?" Then we'd say, "Yes, Jessica." And she'd say, "Oh, I'm sorry, Jessica's not here; she's out saving orphans. Can I take a message?" We'd say, "Yes, please tell her that she's much cooler than Joey, and that Joey is lame for being so mean to his mother just for loving him too much. Oh, also ask her if she did the biology homework, and if she can help us with question five. Thanks! Bye."
"[...] and all he's asking is that Joey come to dinner and sleep in his own bed and be a part of the family. And Joey's like, 'I'm still part of the family,' which, by the way, he never said he wasn't. But Walter's stomping around the kitchen, for a couple of seconds I think he's actually going to hit him, but he's just totally lost it, he's yelling, GET OUT, GET OUT, I'M SICK OF IT, GET OUT, and then he's gone and you can hear him upstairs in Joey's room, opening up Joey's drawers or whatever, and Patty runs upstairs and they start screaming at each other, and Connie and I are hugging Joey, because he's the one reasonable person in the family and we feel so sorry for him, and that's when I know for sure it's the right thing for him to move in which us. Walter comes stomping downstairs again and we can hear Patty screaming like a maniac – she's totally lost it – Walter starts telling again, DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU'RE DOING TO YOUR MOTHER? Because it's all about Patty, see, she's always got to be the victim. And Joey's just standing there shaking his head, because it's so obvious. Why would he want to live in a place like this?" (1.1.123)
In relaying these events to the neighbors, Carol can't hide her obvious satisfaction in helping to destroy the Berglunds' supposedly perfect family unit (not to mention being there to watch it unfold). If she weren't already so emotionally attached to Joey, surely she'd be wondering what kind of kid could put his parents through such misery without even an ounce of remorse. But she'll eventually learn about that herself. One more thing: of course no one even mentions Jessica as being a part of this family, since here the word "family" seems to necessarily include heavy drama and conflict.
Sort of by default, because her mother was so relentless in promoting impressive careers for her daughters, and also because her mother had been, in Patty's opinion, a substandard parent, Patty was inclined to want to be a homemaker and an outstanding mother. "I want to live in a beautiful old house and have two children," she told Walter. "I want to be a really, really great mom." (2.2.541)
Does it seem healthy for Patty to base her life around making her mother look bad? (No, you don't actually have to answer that one.) Or does it poison her desire to be a "really, really great" mom by wrapping it up in competition and revenge? As for her own career, her mom wanted her to do everything, so Patty chose to do nothing. Somewhere in the middle seems a better option.