by Jonathan Franzen
Friendship Quotes in Freedom
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
Few circumstances have turned out to be more painful to the autobiographer, in the long run, than the dearness of Walter and Richard's friendship. Superficially, at least, the two of them were an odder couple than even Patty and Eliza. [...] Later, as Patty got to know them better, she saw that they were maybe not so different underneath – that both were struggling, albeit in a very different ways, to be good people. (2.2.186)
It's funny. The first time we read this, we just assume Patty's saying that Walter and Richard's friendship is painful to her because it caused her (well, all of them) so much suffering. But then we read it again and think, could she be saying something else entirely? Like, maybe it's so painful for her because it makes her realize how she has never had any comparably close friendships of her own?
Intellectually, Walter was definitely the big brother and Richard his follower. And yet, for Richard, being smart, like being good, was just a sideshow to the main competitive effort. This was what Walter had in mind when he said he didn't trust his friend. He could never shake the feeling that Richard was hiding stuff from him; that there was a dark side of him always going off in the night to pursue motives he wouldn't admit to; that he was happy to be friends with Walter as long as it was understood that he was the top dog. [...] It made Walter feel weak and small to be forever available for Richard to come back to. He was tormented by the suspicion that he loved Richard more than Richard loved him, and was doing more than Richard to make the friendship work. (2.3.121)
Wow, Walter and Richard's friendship isn't just a friendship at all, is it? It's part-friendship, part-marriage, part-sibling rivalry. Ideally close relationships would not entail so much insecurity and fear. Unfortunately, though, that's the way we're built.
She had terrible fights with Walter in which he blamed her for making Joey ungovernable and she was unable to defend herself properly, because she wasn't allowed to speak the sick conviction in her heart, which was that Walter had ruined her friendship with her son. (2.3.205)
We're not really sure if this belongs in the Family section, or in the Friendship column. What does it say about Patty's role as a mother that the thing she values most highly in life is her friendship with her son? And what sort of friendship can a son have with his mother, especially if it comes at the expense of his sister and father?