by Jonathan Franzen
Symbol: Walter and the Coal Companies
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
There are two main plotlines involving Walter. In one, he enters into a relationship with someone, and that person betrays him and has an affair with someone else. In the other one, he enters into a relationship with someone, and that person betrays him to go behind his back with someone else.
Wait, say what? Well, he's married to Patty, and Patty has an affair with Richard. He also has an agreement with Vin Haven to create nature reserves in West Virginia, and Haven makes a side deal with a few big corporations to mine those areas for natural gas. Interesting how similar these romantic and non-romantic entanglements are. Is Walter's marriage a representation of his environmental work? Or does his environmental work symbolize his marriage?