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Quotes

Quote #4

Where did the self-pity come from? The inordinate volume of it? By almost any standard, she led a luxurious life. She had all day every day to figure out some decent and satisfying way to live, and yet all she ever seemed to get for all her choices and all her freedom was more miserable. The autobiographer is almost forced to the conclusion that she pitied herself for being so free. (2.3.583)

This passage suggests that the "luxurious life" is simply not a natural way to live. Humans are built to work their bodies and challenge their minds. (For example, search for water, carry it home. Build trap, catch food.) The absence of any sort of mental or physical stimulation saps us of our vivacity.

Quote #5

When Jessica did not reply to this, Patty forced herself to look up. Her daughter was gazing with desolate self-control at the main college building, on an outside wall of which Patty had noticed a stone graven with words of wisdom from the Class of 1920: USE WELL THY FREEDOM. (2.3.607)

Interesting use of the term "desolate self-control" here, illustrating that Jessica has an almost innate ability to restrict her own freedom (that is, "use it well"), in a way that her mom Patty simply can't. Bonus points to Franzen for the clever use of the engraving, which might well serve as an epiphany for Patty, if she weren't so imprisoned by her lack of imprisonment.

Quote #6

Almost everybody in his dorm communicated with their parents daily, if not hourly, and although this did make him feel unexpectedly grateful to his own parents, who had been far cooler and more respectful of his wishes than he'd been able to appreciate as long as he lived next door to them, it also touched off something like a pain. He'd asked for his freedom, they'd granted it, and he couldn't go back now. (3.2.89)

This is, we think, the first instance of Joey articulating an awareness of his relatively limitless freedom. Appropriately enough, this realization arrives soon after 9/11, when the entire nation was waking up to questions of freedom.

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