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KxBurns
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Couplings

On what basis do the main characters chose their romantic partners? What do they seek from marriage? How do their criteria and expectations differ from their parents’ generation?

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Guerneymember12
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Re: Couplings

Yes, their pickings differ from their perents generation.  Make that YES they differ.  Of course I wasn't there but the parents from the earlier generation were concerned with :smileysad:women - support , stability)( men - beauty, reputation, hostess)from what I gather from reading works from that generation.  and when you read this book almost all of the girls make the comment that they know their parents would not approve of the men whom they choose.  Dave knows that his parents would have wanted Emily for him, but HE doesnt want her.  He can just tell by the way his mother looks at him.  From the beginning of the book, I thought Tal was wonderful so sweet and I wanted him to have who he wanted which is Sadie, of course the book isn't over but it isn't looking that way......Who knows how they choose, now it appears to really be a work of pheremones is my guess.  aybe Sadie is looking for someone powerful, she appears to be the kind to do so.  And I'm really proud of Emily being able to not give in to Curtis, she read him well.
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Chatterbox
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Re: Couplings


the parents from the earlier generation were concerned with :smileysad:women - support , stability)( men - beauty, reputation, hostess)

The parents of these characters would have come of age in the late 60s and early 70s -- not the 1950s. They were, many of them, rebelling against their own parents, and NOT choosing spouses for these reasons. (Look at how Beth's mother reflects on her marriage and the wedding, for instance.) The ones who married out of pragmatism tended to be older, like Sadie's parents.

 

What really startled me was that none of the parents (that I can recall) are divorced. Which is completely uncharacteristic of that generation, when divorce rates SOARED. Emily's parents are together, ditto Tad, Dave (I think), Beth, Sadie, and definitely Lil.

 

To what extent do these characters think they are choosing on a different basis when they are actually selecting a partner on the same basis? Look at Sadie's choice of Ed -- just as pragmatic as her mother, albeit in different circumstances. The ultimate example, is of course, Emily -- the fairy-tale, chick lit-style coupling feels convincing (partly because I've read it in so many feel-good novels) but isn't she marrying as much out of those old needs for stability, partnership, companionship, as for love, lust or any 'new' reason? 

 

My suspicion is that there is no new reason for any of these couplings, even though the characters may choose to think so. Because one's parents disapprove of one's choice does not make it revolutionary or mean it has a broader significance -- it may just mean that they don't like the guy. 

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maryfrancesa
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Re: Couplings

I am not sure that they had any basis on picking their romantic partner.  Who would have thought that Beth would marry Will based on ch 2, I would have had second thoughts about some type of relationship with him.  She still is not sure who she really wants I think she may like the familiar vs the unknown, but do tkink she went with who she felt was better.  Sadie is very confused over Curtis, Ed and FBI man.  She picks Ed because he is the father of her baby and also because he states he loves her.  Mr FBI man Mike is not around much.

Lil marries Tuck but now I am not sure that he is who she really believes he is.  I got the impression he is abusive to her and many ways, but that he has some hold over him. 

We donot know to much about Emily, Tal and Dave.  Dave seems to be a loner and I am not sure he knows what he really wants in a relationship and Tal seems to be into his career. 

         Not sure they know what they seek from marriage in these chapters, not to unlike their mothers beliefs that Females the men will look abd provide for them but also give them space to work and be something other than Mrs Soand So.

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Chatterbox
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Re: Couplings

A final note re the initial questions -- I do think that while the criteria may not be much different in reality, the expectations of marriage may be different. Perhaps.

But then, we aren't given (except for Beth's mother) insight to what those expectations were in the previous generation vs what the reality became. Which isn't enough info to base an argument on. 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Couplings

Well, I am probably the parent's generation so I will speak to that first. For me, choosing a partner was all about finding someone who had good character and a good fuuture, too, I think. It was about sharing my life with someone who was good and kind, someone I would like to settle down with and raise a family with, someone who would share my values and love me always as I hoped I would love him. We married for better or worse, in sickness and in health. We both vowed to love, honor and obey each other and we didn't take our vows lightly nor did we think we could rescind them easily. It wasn't about liberation or careers, it was about love and family, first and foremost, I think. I believe we thought that if we loved each other enough and worked hard enough together then we could achieve anything that we wanted; nothing could stop us from succeeding. The difference today, is that today success is viewed mostly in terms of finances not in terms of family life and relationships. We were not brought up to think we could have it all. We wouldn't think of asking our parents for help. We took care of our parents when they needed us, not the reverse. We were expected to set out on our own and take care of ourselves. Of course the standards for marriage declined tremendously and with them, so did the idea of commitment and resolving differences. Couples began to walk away from each other, and the families they created, without very much thought for anything but their own needs. It led to the generation of young adults that we see in this book although I don't see the parents in the book developed in the light of broken marriages.

 

A problem with my daughter's and son's generations, for the most part, is that they were brought up to believe that they could have it all. They were told that they were stars when they were not. They were not taught how to handle competition or defeat. They were not taught about commitment. As a result, many of that era do not know how to make a permanent commitment, do not know how to make a decision and do not think they have to face any consequences for their behavior. Instead, they blame others. Responsibility has given way to irresponsibility. They do not think they have to take care of themselves independently and many parents continue to take care of their children "disabling" them from becoming adults who can stand on their own two feet successfully.

That is not to imply that there are no independent, responsible young adults of that generation, my kids are great :smileywink:(naturally) but that is the impression I think I am getting from the book.

twj

 

 

 


KxBurns wrote:

On what basis do the main characters chose their romantic partners? What do they seek from marriage? How do their criteria and expectations differ from their parents’ generation?


 

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krb2g
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Re: Couplings


Chatterbox wrote:

To what extent do these characters think they are choosing on a different basis when they are actually selecting a partner on the same basis? Look at Sadie's choice of Ed -- just as pragmatic as her mother, albeit in different circumstances. The ultimate example, is of course, Emily -- the fairy-tale, chick lit-style coupling feels convincing (partly because I've read it in so many feel-good novels) but isn't she marrying as much out of those old needs for stability, partnership, companionship, as for love, lust or any 'new' reason?


I felt like Emily's relationship with Josh was completely unconvincing. It was very sweet, but also a little disturbing (he's been watching her for months, he's jumping in to take care of her sister's case [is that a conflict of interests?], and then he's there to literally sweep her off her broken foot). Especially after Emily has given her relationship with Curtis the level-headed, I-know-this-relationship-is-going-nowhere look, I felt like she dashed into a new one, without any sort of reason. I also got the sense that Josh is appealing because he's so different from the group--he's not an artist (like Tal, Dave, or Curtis) but a doctor--and because he can take over some of the caregiving that has exhausted Emily. I guess what I mean to say is, I understand why Emily might want a new relationship (just as Beth seems to rebound with Will after she sees Dave again)--but it seems unlikely and/or creepy to me that someone like Josh (a doctor, who promises to take care of all her problems) would be there without other issues going on (compare to Curtis, who still has his ex-wife hanging around, or Will, also with an ex-wife and a child to boot and problems with intimacy).

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cagraham
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Re: Couplings

I agree that Emily's relationship with Josh is unconvincing.  Her character interests/confuses me.  At first she seems to be the one who really knows what she wants: to be a broadway actress. She devotes her life to it, working temp jobs, spending all of her $ on acting/dance lessons, working out, etc.  Once her sister comes and  she meets Josh,  she leaves it all behind.  Is it because she is just so tired of "trying to make it?" Does she realize that she just doesn't have the talent? And then she up and decides to go to med school.  Come on!!! This might be a little more believeable if we knew that she had always struggled with her sister's illness.  Hmmmm....I'm all for change, but seriously.  Wonder if Josh had been an attorney if she would be signing up for law school to fight for the rights of the mentally ill?
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Chatterbox
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Re: Couplings

krb2g,

Yes, you are dead on. It was convincing only "outside" the book, if that makes sense. It was the prince riding in to save her from her woes -- almost literally. Utterly unrealistic, but it is the conventional romantic novel's ending, from Bridget Jones onward (and previously). The "reader, I married him" factor, if you will. You don't get the same sense that Emily will have struggles adjusting to marriage or the relationship the way that the other characters have (and the way that happens IRL).

Would be interesting to learn if that was deliberate -- the representation of the ideal, of what Lil's marriage could have been, perhaps what she dreamed it would become.

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Shadowwolf36
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Re: Couplings

[ Edited ]
I felt that the characters so badly wanted to be with someone that they just kind of jumped at the first person in their paths. Maybe it was the writing but it didn't seem like they tried to find the right "fits" for them and for the most part, those relationships didn't work. They were trying to remain in their own little circles Lil with Tuck, Beth with Tuck's friend, Emily with Dave's bandmate, Sadie with the FBI agent she meets outside Caitlins and then with Ed another Tuck add on. Perhaps they were thinking that these threads would solidify their slow disintegrating friendships?  I am not sure.
Message Edited by Shadowwolf36 on 01-13-2009 10:00 AM
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Grace2133
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Re: Couplings


Shadowwolf36 wrote:
I felt that the characters so badly wanted to be with someone that they just kind of jumped at the first person in their paths. Maybe it was the writing but it didn't seem like they tried to find the right "fits" for them and for the most part, those relationships didn't work. They were trying to remain in their own little circles Lil with Tuck, Beth with Tuck's friend, Emily with Dave's bandmate, Sadie with the FBI agent she meets outside Caitlins and then with Ed another Tuck add on. Perhaps they were thinking that these threads would solidify their slow disintegrating friendships?  I am not sure.
Message Edited by Shadowwolf36 on 01-13-2009 10:00 AM

I agree. Their relationships seem to be very superficial. There is no real romantic basis to them. They marry the first man who shows any amount of interest in them. It seems to me like a weak attempt to keep ties to their college friends. Perhaps they are also scared of leaving those ties behind and growing up. Anything beyond the group is unknown and they are scared of that. 

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kiakar
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Re: Couplings

I really liked Emily. She and Sadie were my favorite characters. I liked Emily and Josh together. I mostly loved Emily for at least trying to help her sister. That takes alot of spunk to deal with mental illness. Josh to me seemed real. He met with her to discuss her sister but he fell for her so he persisted until she gave her attention back to him. I felt that couple was more sincere than most of the rest.

 

 

 

 

 


cagraham wrote:
I agree that Emily's relationship with Josh is unconvincing.  Her character interests/confuses me.  At first she seems to be the one who really knows what she wants: to be a broadway actress. She devotes her life to it, working temp jobs, spending all of her $ on acting/dance lessons, working out, etc.  Once her sister comes and  she meets Josh,  she leaves it all behind.  Is it because she is just so tired of "trying to make it?" Does she realize that she just doesn't have the talent? And then she up and decides to go to med school.  Come on!!! This might be a little more believeable if we knew that she had always struggled with her sister's illness.  Hmmmm....I'm all for change, but seriously.  Wonder if Josh had been an attorney if she would be signing up for law school to fight for the rights of the mentally ill?

 

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KxBurns
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Re: Couplings

[ Edited ]

Chatterbox wrote:

the parents from the earlier generation were concerned with :smileysad:women - support , stability)( men - beauty, reputation, hostess)

The parents of these characters would have come of age in the late 60s and early 70s -- not the 1950s. They were, many of them, rebelling against their own parents, and NOT choosing spouses for these reasons. (Look at how Beth's mother reflects on her marriage and the wedding, for instance.) The ones who married out of pragmatism tended to be older, like Sadie's parents.

 

What really startled me was that none of the parents (that I can recall) are divorced. Which is completely uncharacteristic of that generation, when divorce rates SOARED. Emily's parents are together, ditto Tad, Dave (I think), Beth, Sadie, and definitely Lil.

 

To what extent do these characters think they are choosing on a different basis when they are actually selecting a partner on the same basis? Look at Sadie's choice of Ed -- just as pragmatic as her mother, albeit in different circumstances. The ultimate example, is of course, Emily -- the fairy-tale, chick lit-style coupling feels convincing (partly because I've read it in so many feel-good novels) but isn't she marrying as much out of those old needs for stability, partnership, companionship, as for love, lust or any 'new' reason? 

 

My suspicion is that there is no new reason for any of these couplings, even though the characters may choose to think so. Because one's parents disapprove of one's choice does not make it revolutionary or mean it has a broader significance -- it may just mean that they don't like the guy. 


 

I think this is true. The characters do not even stray outside of their social class in choosing their partners. I also feel like the marriages portrayed in the book are not really partnerships -- there is a definite imbalance of power in most of the relationships, whether it's derived from age/experience or money.

 

Viewed from this perspective, Lil's choice of mate is the least conventional, in that she chooses someone who is not a reliable breadwinner. However, I don't believe this was her expectation going into it!

 

If we look at the fact that the characters have chosen mates based on fairly traditional formulas (whether consciously or not), along with the fact that Sadie and Emily at least do seem to be happily married, what is the message here about modern vs. traditional marriage, in your opinion? Or is it not as simple as traditional versus "modern" notions of marriage? What does Caitlin Green-Gold's situation contribute to the dialogue?

Message Edited by KxBurns on 01-13-2009 07:16 PM
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mattzay
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Re: Couplings

I agree about the relationship with Emily and Josh. Maybe it is because the relationship really gave Emily the opportunity to think about where she wanted her life to go. After her big break was lost, she seemed to be disinterested in acting. Josh seemed to not only guide her through helping her sister, but with herself as well. She seems to be happy with where her life is going.

 

Lil seemed to pick someone quickly. Her marriage appeared to be rushed because she seemed to want someone to take care of her, but winds up taking care of him. Beth seemed to marry the first man who pays attention to her after Dave. She doesn't seem to be over Dave, but settles for Will. Sadie seems to marry Ed only because he is her baby's father. She seems to have a pattern of picking men who are not around full time. First Tal, then FBI Mike, then Ed. The difference with Ed is that he stated he loved her.

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dhaupt
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Re: Couplings

Well in Lil's case she chose someone who's career path was like hers since she met him in their doctorate program.

Sadie and Ed are of the same path in publishing of one form or another, w/Tal I think it was because she knew him so well and as far as the cop, gosh I didn't see that one coming.

Beth I think at first chose because of her (non)relationship with Dave, but in the end I think picked well, as I said before I didn't have a problem w/her choice of Will or with the sex scene.

Emily, Dave, and Tal are harder for me to figure out. I think that Dave's just immature.

I think they differentiate from their parents by picking partners not thinking of money or stature. 

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Guerneymember12
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Re: Couplings

Thanks "thewanderingjew".  Your answer explained firsthand what i was trying to explain the differences were between what the newly adults may have been looking for in a husband versus their parents.  You described that stability that I believe a womman looked for in order for a marriage to work, to last and therfore provide her with happiness, and I'm sure good-looking was in the requirements too!Wheras now people don't care about the first criteria, I think they just assume it will be there if "love " if there and a great point you had is that people thenstuck it out whereas people now walk out.
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booksJT
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Re: Couplings

I think when they choose their mates they were looking for supportive and loving partners. They were also looking to find their own way with the help of their partners. Their parents generation got married so they could share  a career and have a family. Beth became involved w/Will because of past disappointments with other men. Emily and Josh developed a relationship quickly because of his need to help her sister. I thought he was aggressive in pursuing Emily. He seemed to want to save her.Lil married Tuck because they had the same career goals . Lil felt since they were heading in the same path they would be good for each other. Also she wanted someone to take care of her and Tuck would be that lucky guy according to her. In the the beginning Sadie didn't know who she wanted to be with. The FBI guy, Ed or Tal.  But she choose Ed because he  was the one person who would love her.  I think the girls all made the same choices as the parents unconsciously. In the end they all wanted families and a loving relationship with their spouse.
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kolsonheld
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Re: Couplings

With Lil, it seemed like she just wanted to be married. Her friends didn't really know Tuck, and in the end, it wasn't what she expected. Sadie's marriage almost seemed the most real, even though it seemed like they were married to do the 'right thing' following baby. It certainly isn't easy with Ed gone so often, but they seem to have a bond and truly love each other. Beth and Emily have a hard time believing that someone would want to be with them, and I wonder if that is why they end up with their partners. They don't show much confidence in this area, at least right away. 
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pjmama
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Re: Couplings

I may be a little off base here, but I'm noticing a definite trend through postings that I didn't think about when reading the novel.  A lot of us posting are caught up in stereotypes and with forcing these characters into representations of their age.  I suppose this could be from the generalization of the title.  I saw it last week when discussing the original members of the group and definitely this week in both friendships and couplings.

 

But here's the thing for me...I found these characters believable in their strengths and in their flaws.  They aren't cardboard cutouts and they aren't symbols or stock characters.  They are confused, they are idealistic, they agonize over choices, they make mistakes and make the best of them when they can.  They deal with their parents' individually...not just their parents' generation.  I think this is why I enjoyed the book and why I've had a bit of a problem reading posts.  People can't be pigeonholed...they don't always act the way they are supposed to.  Throughout  literature the most interesting characters are the ones who defy stereotypes and don't necessarily represent their age.  

 

I've taught Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities for years to AP students and every year our discussions are similar.  Lucie drives them crazy because she is so good, predictable, and FLAT!  They are much more intrigued by the crazy Defarges and, of course, by Carton and the decisions he makes.  Now, I'm not sure I'm comparing Rakoff's characterization to Dickens' genius, but I do want to make the point that these characters aren't stereotypes.  That's too simple and there would be no point in discussing them.  

 

Who knows why Beth ultimately chooses Will?  Or why Emily is drawn to Josh although he is so different from her past life?  I agree with many of you that sometimes the transitions were a bit abrupt, but I also know that sometimes when I hear about events in my friends' lives I feel the same way.

 

Can we just accept these characters as who they are and not try to stereotype them? 

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KxBurns
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Re: Couplings

Great point, pjmama. So which characters, in your opinion "defy steroetypes and don't necessarily represent their age?" All of them? Some more than others? Discuss!