McKenzie's Reviews > The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
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's review
Nov 25, 2011

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Read from November 22 to 24, 2011

I feel conflicted about Eugenides' newest novel. I am convinced that he wrote this for people who were English majors, who understand the myriad of literary references, and the characters' need to overanalyze everything and make obscure connections between materials. And yet I think Eugenides lost substance to his obsession with references and semiotics, in that his own characters became two-dimensional. In all my years of college, I never met people like the characters he depicts, who are so wholly devoted to their studies and making themselves seem intelligent that they lose the ability to connect with others on a more personal level. On the contrary, I feel that contemporary students are more obsessed with social connections and view scholarship, theory, and reading as archaic and worthless distractions. Granted I did not attend an Ivy League, but I felt that Eugenides was trying to make some connections with today's graduates (particularly given his insistence on mentioning the unemployment rate multiple times), and in this he failed. Even with me, a person with many similarities to his main character - an English major floundering in the real world, comparing the heroines of my beloved Austen novels to the women I know who settle for so much less in both life and marriage.

I admire what Eugenides was trying to do. I just do not think he achieved it. I remain convinced that modern life is too fragmented, too hectic, and too full of "isms" for the "marriage plot" to function anymore. And maybe that's his ultimate point. From what I remember of Middlesex I was slightly disappointed by it too... maybe I need to read The Virgin Suicides again, because all I distinctly remember is the main girl taking boys up to her parents' roof and popping the pimples on their backs while they had sex. Regardless, I did not think this novel was worthy of being the best fiction of this year.

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