Web Wednesday 11/30

November 30, 2011

Excerpt from page ten of The Marriage Plot:

‘Madeleine had been trying to beat Alton [in tennis] her entire life without success. This was even more infuriating because she was better than he was, at this point. But whenever she took a set from Alton he started intimidating her, acting mean, disputing calls, and her game fell apart. Madeleine was worried that there was something paradigmatic in this, that she was destined to go through life being cowed by less capable men. As a result, Madeleine‚Äôs tennis matches against Alton had assumed such outsize personal significance for her that she got tight whenever she played him, with predictable results.’

Madeleine’s relationship with her father when it comes to tennis is a great metaphor for the theme of mania that appears so often throughout the novel. Mania is something that is not easily beat, and we see Madeleine struggling without success to beat her father at tennis. Even though she’s better than Alton, he always wins– this further represents the struggle with something that threatens to consume someone, even if the person is theoretically ‘stronger’ than the mania. Eugenides even goes so far as to say that Madeleine ‘fell apart’, which is certainly applicable to mania as well as a tennis game.

Alton’s taunting may represent personal insecurities– even though Madeleine is stronger than the ‘mania’ her inner thoughts turn ‘intimidating’ and disparaging toward herself, and due to the drop in confidence she cannot win. She fears that this is the standard, and that this is destined to happen forever. This causes her to both lose hope and to tense up, and as a result she cannot defeat her father/the mania.

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