Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Featuring three Brown University seniors in 1982, The Marriage Plot captures the coming of age, apprehension and indecisiveness of timeless college graduates.  Eugenides, a Princeton professor and Brown graduate, writes with knowledgeable authority about the college setting.  Mitchell Grammaticus loves Madeleine Hanna and Madeleine Hanna loves Leonard Bankhead, rather unique names in an all too familiar college love triangle.  Madeleine is writing her senior thesis on Victorian novels and has been rejected by Yale graduate school, Mitchell is a religious studies major who plans a graduation trip to India, and Leonard has accepted a biology research fellowship on Cape Cod. As these three seniors make decisions concerning their future it seems that all three are struggling in their own way to find goodness and do the right thing. Madeleine falls in the female trap of confusing love with a need to save and mother a man. Mitchell confuses love with destiny,  and Leonard rejects love under the paralysis of manic depression.  Quite realistic in the characterization of the three students, their parents, and friends, the novel changes between the voices of the three students as the novel progresses. There is an art to capturing the right texture and rhythm of dialogue and Eugenides excels.  His affection for the characters is evident and he interjects humor throughout the novel to lighten the serious moments.