Study Guide

Enid Lambert in The Corrections

By Jonathan Franzen

Enid Lambert

Before we continue with your regularly scheduled Shmoop character analysis, we request that you take this brief quiz. This test will determine your E.L.L, or Enid Lambert Level.

Without any further ado:

  • If your new boyfriend told you that "human beings were born to suffer" (4.274) while on a date, you would:
    • smile politely and leave.
    • dump him via text the next day.
    • call 911.
    • just go ahead and marry the guy.
  • If your son told you he got a writing job and it kind of sounds like he mentioned the Wall Street Journal, you would:
    • ask him to repeat himself more clearly.
    • look at an issue of the Wall Street Journal.
    • ask his siblings if they know anything.
    • just go ahead and act as if he works at the Wall Street Journal—close enough, right?
  • If your husband has nightly hallucinations, you would:
    • take him to the doctor to determine the exact cause.
    • commit him to a psych ward.
    • spend the night at a hotel.
    • just go ahead and assume that it's drug-related and put it out of your mind.

If you answered d to any of these questions, then we have bad news: You might be Enid Lambert.

Pants on Fire

As you can see, Enid is defined by her immense aptitude for self-delusion. While she's not the only character in the novel that lies to herself, she's definitely the best at it. This might just be because she's had more practice—Enid has been trying to reconcile Alfred's "young-man" looks and "old-man" personality since day one—but we think there's something a little deeper going on (4.276). Enid is the best liar because she's the only one who's aware of the lie.

Think about it. Enid admits to Sylvia that she doesn't actually think that Chip works for the Wall Street Journal, and the previous night she admits (to herself, at least) that she is disappointed with her children. To her credit, Enid sees right through her children's lies, though she doesn't have the heart to publically acknowledge it.

The Queen of Corrections

It's funny—and a little ironic—that it's the seventy-five year old mother who emerges as the heroine in the end. Would you have expected Enid of all people to become more open-minded? Would you have expected her to realize the error of her ways?

If there's one thing that Enid should have learned, it's that you can't force change on anyone—yourself included. Yes, she has a wide world open ahead of her, but she shouldn't expect an instant correction to take hold. That's the type of thinking that got her here in the first place.