Study Guide

Goodman Wolf in The Interestings

By Meg Wolitzer

Goodman Wolf

We're just going to say it: Goodman is a giant jerk. We know Jules is all googly-eyed over him for half the book, but it's pretty obvious that the narrator thinks she's an idiot for it (and so do some of her friends). The thing about Goodman is that he's charismatic and seductive when he wants to be, so nobody really notices how terrible a person he is—or they don't want to notice. Even his own mother says, "the male of our species is unknowable" (8.113). She, of course, isn't right in this assessment, though she is if she's speaking about her own interest in knowing her son.

We don't get a lot of Goodman's life here because somewhere in Chapter 8 he runs off to Iceland so he doesn't have to face his trial over raping Cathy. Weak. We do know that he sticks to his story about his innocence all the way through the book, and that he develops several addictions and has a sadistic need to manipulate people for no reason.

Not sure what we're talking about with the whole sadistic streak? Cathy's rape aside, remember that guy from the psychiatric hospital that Goodman brings to Spirit-in-the-Woods when Jules and Dennis are running it? What possible reason could Goodman have for picking that guy up except for the sick pleasure of manipulating someone else's feelings? It's kind of his thing, be it his mother or a lonely dude by the side of the road.

Ash likes to blame Goodman's personality on their narcissistic parents, but that's not a great answer. After all, Gil and Betsy fall all over themselves to take care of Goodman when he messes up, and yet still all he wants to do is spend time at the camp being adored by everyone.

We think Goodman's real problem is that he's obsessed with being loved, and that's why he keeps calling up Jules and telling her she wants/wanted him, as well as explains why he goes back to the camp. Jules calls him out on it once, saying he "was in heaven there" because he "got to be a big deal" (15.59), and we think she's hit the nail on the head when it comes to this guy. He manipulates people so that they will fawn over him, and then uses that to take what he wants—and if this desire conflicts with society, well, then he weasels his way into people's favor again.

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