Daniel Stafford's Reviews > The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
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Jun 23, 2010

really liked it

I think it would be perfectly fair to say that I do not like role-fulfillment. By that I mean that I do not believe any of us are born into a role that we must fill until the day we die.

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry seems, to me, to explore the issue of the roles people are supposed to play.

Each character in the novel is faced with a crux in which they can continue to go on with what is expected of them (whether that role is as a housewife, as a man, as a wealthy teen, as a preacher, etc) or change into something that they no longer recognize as themselves. That I believe is the message of the novel: the roles are arbitrary and only the individual can choose what to do with what is expected of them.

The hard part is knowing that one can change who they are and what is expected of them. Otherwise, they continue and continue and continue… In one manner, we see why a unhappy wife of a football coach continues: she feels she had a role to play with her ignoramus husband; and being at the age she is, that is all she can accept, therefore no change can come out of it. But, when a teenage boy comes into her life and loves her body like no man has ever, her role is drastically changed.

And role changing is frightening after you’ve lived it for so long and without any exit plan.

Another issue that The Last Picture Show deals with is what really goes on in small towns. Often politicians will give us small towns as the American ideal and tell us how little crime they have, how few infidelities occur, and how the moral conscience is usually in the right. McMartry gives the uncensored view of what goes on in small towns and behind those closed doors all delivered in a matter-of-fact way that does not indicated any surprise from the narrator’s ink. The shocks and awes should not do just that: everything is presented as if the readers was the most casual type and would mumble nothing more than, “Of course, of course…I remember when I did that when I was a boy…”

Small town America is an illusion. The Last Picture Show is just that: the silvered-screen ideal being torn down to show us what is really going on behind what so many call idyllic and quaint.
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