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2012 Book Discussions > The Corrections - One Last Christmas (June 2012)

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message 1: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Stuart | 19 comments Discussion for the last chapter and everything leading up to it.

message 2: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Since it is almost the end of June, it seemed to me like someone should say something about the last chapter. I would be interested in knowing how other people felt about it.

I found it interesting that Chip and his sister both seemed to sort of redeem them selves at the end, and in both cases they rose to the expectations of someone who loved them. Chip seemed to realize that his father loved him more than he had ever realized, and that his sister also loved and needed him. He had been acting pretty worthless up to this point, and he seemed to feel pretty worthless. Discovering that there were people he could help seemed to be an inspiration for him. Denise seems to have had a similar revelation about how much her mother loved her and needed her help. Gary proved himself to be totally worthless, and petty to the point of demanding reimbursement for trivial amounts of money he spent on things his mother needed.

message 3: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) I more or less agree with you, Chip's experiences clearly give him a different sense of what success is. Denise clearly has some personal bubbles pop. Both learn to let go of some of their emotional scar tissue. The biggest of the corrections (IMO) has to be Enid. She finally figures out all the things that were wrong with the past decades, and also the tragic fact it's far far later than it should have been (better late than never? Matter of opinion perhaps), and that Alfred is kind of a dick. Charmingly enough, Alfred refuses to correct SQUAT, and goes out in his own style. Gary is the big question. Is his finally standing up for himself (sort of) a correction? I find myself wondering I Franzen painted himself into a corner with Gary a bit, and just limped him across the finish line. I don't see the transformative effect of correction, nor the tragic morality play lesson of a refused redemption (ala his father). I'll admit that during the process of moving, I might not have considered his case enough, and I'm very open to other interpretations concerning him, so hopefully some of you will provide me my own correction there. Until then, I suspect the author just couldn't quite bring all of the threads to the tapestry.

message 4: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
That corrections happen doesn't mean that every character either has one or rejects it. Gary, I think, had a "course correction," which shifted his loyalties totally away from his parents and toward his wife and kids and what they wanted. In the beginning, Gary is at least trying to balance loyalty to his parents and a desire to meet his parents' needs and expectations, with a need to please his wife. By the end his wife has won, and Gary feels no obligation to do anything for his parents. He is focused on his own "entitlement" rather than feeling he owes anything to his parents.

message 5: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Enid is the one character that had me seeing red every time, probably because she reminds me so much of my own mother. I think this emotional reaction causes me to over-interpret much of the subtext regarding her story. The medication she was given samples of (ASLAN) is obviously a reference to the character in C.S. Lewis's Narnia series, and I assumed this was some sort of poke at religion as a general panacea to life's problems. When she writes out the chemical name in this chapter, however, there seems to be another reference sought by the author.

When trying to resupply via Europe, Enid writes out the full name of her medication as ASLAN ‘Cruiser’ (rhadamanthine citrate 88%, 3-methyl-rhadamanthine chloride 12%). I am somewhat conversant in pharmaceutical names, and this was obviously fictional. Rhadamanthus is one of the three judges of the underworld in Greek mythology, and I'm wondering if this is the author's attempt to inject another subtext to Enid's story. My own reading is along the lines of, "You have been judged and found lacking."

Again, I'm probably reading far too much between the lines here, but it seems odd that Franzen would spell out a fictional pharmaceutical compound without having some reason behind it -- especially as it comes at such a character-defining moment in Enid's story arc.

message 6: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I don't see how you get from ASLAN to the author taking a poke at religion as a general panacea. I took it just as a reference to a fantasy world, like Narnia, where you can forget about your everyday problems.

It seemed to me there was a parallel between Chip's taking drugs and trashing his academic career through poor judgment, and Enid's taking ASLAN, leaving her husband alone (which she normally wouldn't), thereby making it possible for him to fall off the ship.

The message I took from this is that drugs may provide an appealing temporary escape from reality, but while you're "on vacation" you can cause all sorts of long term problems.

message 7: by William (new)

William Mego (willmego) Daniel, that might be the best comment on this book, hands down. Great, amazing spot on the drug compound. I know enough to know when I read it that it wasn't a real compound, but I didn't think to look more deeply at the words that made up the compound. Great find! The reference to Aslan being from CS Lewis is certainly clear, but I remain on the fence as to whether it's a reference to organize religion in general, or a reference to an escape into a fantasy realm. I probably have to reread all the previous references to Narnia in the book, such as the interaction between Caroline and her youngest son, and I believe Denise makes a reference at some point as well. If I had to choose, I would suspect he's making a reference to the abuse and overuse of pharmaceuticals by Americans in general, and referencing fantasy, and not religion directly.

message 8: by Daniel (last edited Jul 01, 2012 07:02AM) (new)

Daniel Thanks Casceil and Will for the comments. Yes, I think fantasy is hand in glove with the reference to Aslan, especially regarding the escape to a fantasy world. My jump to religion comes from Narnia being widely understood as a Christian allegory, with Aslan representing the Christ figure. I don't agree at all with the conclusion that I'm inferring, but I suppose anti-religious commentary is en vogue enough nowadays that I assume such even when not intended.

I also agree with both your observations about a negative drug message, especially Will's comment about abuse and overuse of pharmaceuticals. When Dr. Hibbard suggests Mexican Aslan to Enid as a replacement, and when Bea Meisner delivers what Denise recognizes as Mexican A (the same drug that Chip used with Melissa), we find out that the only difference between the children's illicit drugs and Enid's pharmaceutical compound is a doctor's signature on a slip of paper. That becomes not just a message on the overuse of pharmaceuticals, but about the loophole created in the War on Drugs among law-abiding citizens by government-approved medicines.

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