Jennifer's Reviews > Contempt

Contempt by Alberto Moravia
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May 31, 12

bookshelves: lapl, 1001-bymr
Read from May 14 to 15, 2012

Difficult to define why I liked this story. Perhaps it's because I have a soft spot for "the nice guy." The young, broke, newlywed, narrator husband is trying his best to financially support and please his beautiful, simple-minded wife, but all in vain. When the relationship begins to splinter over petty issues, he begins to doubt his reasons for compromising that which he loves (writing for theater) for the sake of a large film industry paycheck. Why did he give up his passion for this woman whose feelings seem to be changing? Why did he take on so much debt for her sake? The dark word usury hangs over his head threatening to descend and choke the life out of him. If she doesn't love him anymore then the job he despises, the money attains from it, and his raison d'etre all mean nothing. Hmmmm...is this how men typically think? I came upon the same attitude in "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep." For that male character as well, the fact that his wife might not love him and that he might never be able to make her happy sent him into a "what am I doing with my life?" tailspin. If she doesn't care, what is it all for? Poor guys. Both stories contained the idea that being unable to make a wife happy results in an emasculating reevaluation of a man's life purpose. How long has this theme existed in literature, I wonder?

Maybe I liked this story because it was like watching a train wreck. I knew that demise was inevitable, and the husband was such a naive, inexperienced do-gooder, I knew things would not end well for his marriage. Plus it is always interesting to watch the demise of a marriage from the outside because you can see where fatal flaws are being made. As common as this situation is, a glimpse into it is rare. Wanting to wring the guy by the collar and yell at him to "just say what you mean!" or "stop pawing her!" or "stop being overly sensitive!" as he continually fumbled around trying to make sense of his relationship also kept me engaged. I also enjoyed relating to those stupid little issues that seem so fightworthy between couples at beginning of a relationship. Unfortunately, those petty little issues caused the "nice guy" husband to finish last.
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