Study Guide

Freedom Loyalty

By Jonathan Franzen


There's a surprising amount of talk about loyalty in Freedom. Most of this talk centers on being loyal to loved ones, and puts loyalty on a pedestal as one of the highest virtues. Walter's mother Dorothy, in particular – whom Joey describes as being "one-hundred-percent" (3.2.164) – is very big on loyalty. But while Dorothy managed to remain loyal to a lousy husband, the next two generations of Berglunds have considerably more difficulty. Joey, in particular, struggles all the time (it seems) with loyalty to Connie, even as Connie remains completely and utterly committed to the guy.

Questions About Loyalty

  1. How do you read Connie's infinite patience and loyalty to Joey? Do you it as a virtue? Or fault her for being naïve?
  2. We know the roots of Walter's loyalty to Richard. What is the foundation of Richard's loyalty to Walter?
  3. Patty tells us Walter attaches "almost scriptural significance" to his mother Dorothy's advice that we should "take people the way they are [...] and be loyal" to them (2.3.147). If he really does, then we should be able to apply these words to all of his relationships: with Joey, with Richard, and with Patty. How does he fare?
  4. What does Patty learn about her parents' loyalties that helps change her opinion of them?
  5. Does loyalty simply mean non-betrayal, or does it involve something more proactive?

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