Study Guide

Freedom Betrayal

By Jonathan Franzen


Betrayal is closely aligned with loyalty – or, rather, its evil twin, disloyalty. Freedom is deeply concerned with betrayal of principles. Walter compromises the purity of his beliefs in his dealings with coal companies. Richard considers his unintentional success a betrayal of his revulsion with the state of mainstream music. Even Joey's great betrayal of his parents (moving in with his girlfriend next-door) is presented more as a rejection of Walter and Patty's ideals and values than as a personal grievance against them.

Questions About Betrayal

  1. What character definitely deserves blame for his or her betrayal? Or should we say, is there anyone who you don't blame for his or her betrayal?
  2. What about Jessica? Can we consider any of her actions a betrayal? (Think, for example, of her aligning herself with Patty against Walter.)
  3. How does each character respond to his or her betrayal, and how does he or she then make amends?
  4. Can we really consider a son choosing different political beliefs than his father a betrayal? Or is that terminology too strong? Does he really have any responsibility to follow his father's path?
  5. What's the difference between betrayal and disloyalty?

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