by Jonathan Franzen
Loyalty Quotes in Freedom
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
In one letter Eliza wrote, I think we need to make rules for each other for protection and self-improvement. Patty was skeptical about this but wrote back with three rules for her friend. No smoking before dinnertime. Get exercise every day and develop athletic ability. And Attend all lectures and do all homework for ALL classes (not just English). No doubt she should have been disturbed by how different Eliza's rules for her turned out to be – Drink only on Saturday night and only in Eliza's presence; No going to mixed parties except accompanied by Eliza; and Tell Eliza EVERYTHING – but something was wrong with her judgment and she instead felt excited to have such an intense best friend. (2.2.107)
This passage is totally about obsession, and an obsessive relationship can be described as a form of extreme loyalty – or, more specifically, of demanding extreme loyalty. Here Patty not only plays along, gamely offering Eliza her loyalty, but ends up reinforcing Eliza's demands by making demands of her own.
Richard was especially unreliable whenever a girl entered the picture, and Walter resented these girls for being even momentarily more compelling than he was. Richard himself never saw it this way, because he tired of girls so quickly and always ended up kicking them to the curb; he always came back to Walter, whom he didn't get tired of. But to Walter it seemed disloyal of his friend to put so much energy into pursuing people he didn't even like. (2.3.121)
Once again we see the unusually fraught connection between close and casual friendships that exists in the book. This example is especially strange, since Walter and Richard are both uninterested in each other sexually, yet Walter still considers Richard disloyal for sleeping with lots of women instead of…what? Reading books with Walter? Is there any way to get around calling him jealous?
The first big crisis came during their senior year, two years before Patty met them, when Walter was smitten with the evil sophomore personage named Nomi. To hear Richard tell it (as Patty once did), the situation was straightforward: his sexually naïve friend was being exploited by a worthless female who wasn't into him, and Richard finally took it upon himself to demonstrate her worthlessness. According to Richard, the girl wasn't worth competing over; she was just a mosquito to be slapped. But Walter saw things differently. He got so angry with Richard that he refused to speak to him for weeks. (2.3.122)
This is a much more serious example and points to divergent ideas of what "loyalty" means. Walter's version is simpler and more direct: stand by your friend, at all costs. For Richard, loyalty is something deeper and more complex: that is, sometimes "standing by your friend" entails doing precisely the thing that will hurt him the most.