The Spectacular Now
by Tim Tharp
Everyone in The Spectacular Now is influenced in a big way by their family life. From Sutter and Aimee all the way down to Tara and Kenny, major and minor characters alike almost all have some sort of family problems – most of them pretty awful.
The one exception is Bob, Sutter's boss. We see what a great guy he is by looking at his family interact:
His wife isn't attractive in any official way, but she is beautiful. It's awesome when she shows up at the store – her face beams, his face beams, and I'm sure my face beams just from watching the two of them. Same thing with his kids, Kelsey and Jake. They're five and seven years old and can't wait for their dad to hoist them up in the air and toss them around. (9.14)
That right there tells you all you need to know about Bob, and why Sutter respects him so much. Gee, adulthood sure looks awful, doesn't it?
Being inside Sutter's head, we hear his thoughts and words – and are in the perfect position to notice if they don't match up with his actions. And what a person actually does is a lot more important in determining character than what they say.
He may tell Ricky he doesn't like Aimee:
I don't have any interest at all in dating Aimee. None. (19.25)
But actions speak louder than words:
I kiss her mouth, her eyelids, her eyebrows, her forehead, her ears, her neck. (45.1)
Yeah. He likes her. Like, likes her likes her. And that tells us a lot about his character—like that he's willing to sacrifice his own happiness with her to ensure she gets a better guy than him, but that he's not willing to make the changes in himself.
Sex and Love
Sutter doesn't have a very positive view of love. He thinks his mom's and his sister's marriages are all about money, and every stepdad in the book is a jerk. So the way we see a bunch of the characters, through Sutter's eyes, is based on their approach to love. Take Sutter's mom, for example. He doesn't think she really loves Geech at all, saying that she "started out as his secretary, and I guess the picture of herself in his big, two-story house got the better of her, so the next thing you know, Geech is getting a divorce and Mom's riding around with him in his green Cadillac" (13.10).
Of course, that quote tells us almost as much about Sutter as it does about his mom—like that he's cynical, suspicious, and doesn't have much respect for his mom. For all we know, his mom really does love the guy. We'd have no way of knowing. Through the whole book, we're just in Sutter's head.