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The Ice Storm by Rick Moody
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Feb 16, 11

Read in February, 2011

The Ice Storm
Rick Moody
Little, Brown and Company, 1994


The Ice Storm is Rick Moody’s tragic tale of two families during Thanksgiving holiday and the next couple days following. The two families in the book are the Hoods: father Benjamin, mother Elena, son Paul and daughter Wendy, and the Williams: father Jim, mother Janey, and sons Mikey and Sandy. The book revolves around the actions of these characters, their relationship with each other, and their sexuality.

Moody starts the book by describing everything that was different between what the 70’s had and what was currently popular or in use in present day (present day being 1994). After Moody describes the 70’s lack of modern technology and diseases such as AIDS and HIV he goes on to say “None of this, though- not the Watergate Hotel and its palette of hypocrisy, coercion, and surveillance, not Jonathon Livingston Seagull, whose movie had just opened, not transactional analysis of Gestalt therapy- troubled Benjamin Hood’s sanguine and rational mind. Hood waited happily for his mistress. In her guest room. In those dark ages.” (p. 4) Which I find to be one of the most poignant and interesting quotes of the book because of it’s foreshadowing nature. Not only is the reoccurring theme of sex already introduced but what the reader also sees is the fact that the act is being done with someone it shouldn’t be done with. Already we see the images of the “sexual revolution” of the 70’s.

The sexual ties between the families can get confusing. Benjamin’s mistress mentioned is Janey. This relationship sets the scene for later sexual encounters between others as well. It’s also the first example in the book of how the parents don’t really seem to act like parents and are disconnected from and poor role models for their children, which is something that will also lead to sexual deviance by the children. Janey and Benjamin’s relationship can be seen a major basis for many other actions that take place by other characters in the book, one being the sexual promiscuity of Benjamin’s daughter Wendy. Wendy seems to be a very hormonal girl with no parental guidance on how to handle the hormones she has. She begins to experiment with sex, sometimes with other girls but mainly with the two Williams’ boys. And while Wendy goes the route of coercing boys to “play” with her, Paul uses drugs to quell the effect of his sexual shortcomings on his psyche.

Another side effect of Janey and Benjamin’s affair is the obvious stress it puts on the pair’s spouses. In fact Elena get’s caught shoplifting to try to get a rush of her own. But the major example is the scene in the book is of a “key party” in which arriving couples will drop their keys in a bowl and at the end of the night the women go home with a different man based on whichever key they pull out of the bowl. Elena confronts Benjamin about his affair prior to the event and says that Janey and Benjamin had a plot for Janey to pull Benjamin’s keys, but in light of Benjamin’s protests Elena agrees to the party to see how the events pan out. Benjamin ends up getting too drunk to leave and Elena and Jim spend the night together after Janey leaves with the son of another woman.

When Elena and Jim return to the Williams’ house Elena finds Wendy in bed with Sandy, both of whom are barely in their teens. This event is followed shortly by Benjamin’s arrival with Mikey dead in his arms. Mikey had been electrocuted during in the night during the Ice Storm. These two scenes show the extent to which the parent’s shortcomings had reached by their actions as poor parents and role models.
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