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KxBurns
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Friendship

The members of the group share a bond forged during their college years at Oberlin. What are some of the circumstances or qualities that originally bring them together? What life changes test the bonds of their friendship? How do the relationships evolve or deteriorate as the years pass?

 How does the friendship of the group impact the lives of its members?
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Guerneymember12
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Registered: ‎09-21-2008
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Re: Friendship

The members of the Oberlin group share a few distinguishable qualities. one being that they all worship the arts, whether it be poetry, a classic novel such as Jane Eyre or Jane Austen, or as as Tal and Emily's case, theatre.  None of this scientific, technological, dot-com stuff for them.

Secondly, they believe in making it on their own even if they have to eat beans from a can with no help from their parents when at least half of them could benefit from help from their parents. Lil took it so far as to not even let the brides parent's pay for the wedding which started their marriage in unnecessary debt. This would have been admirable of her if she would have had the money, but debt is not admirable and it hurts a marraige.

 

These qualities have formed shuch a bond for them that when an outsider comes in it causes ripples in their perfect group. Tuck at first seems to love literature, but business is more interesting to him.  He is the "sell out" the group has always been against - giving up the love of  what's really true (to them - literature, art) for ways to make money (computer, dot-coms)Other "new" people eventually come in as the circle begins to marry and date more seriously, but they will bring their own different background. example Will, completely different ideas

 

But they have each other to go to to discuss how to adust to the differences, and that of course helps.

 

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mapleann
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Friendship

I see a group of individuals that have always felt secluded from the mainstream, have common interests, and all are insecure about where they fit in the world. I see a lot of individuals that are lonely and insecure group together with others just like themselves. I feel power in numbers is what the group serves. This would be why we see the competitiveness and underhanded acts within the story.

 

There is a desire to be fully trusting, but I don't see any of the individuals ever letting another group member get that close; Dave and Beth and then Tal and Sadie were probably the closest due to ties on romantic/sexual levels too. There doesn't appear to be any "best friends" in the group. They will find another group member that they can relate to for awhile, but then they will have long lapses in contact too. I also see the group size aiding the ablility to keep distance between the members, a comfortable distance for them all.\

 

The group serves as a safety net!

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Friendship

Platonic friendships were always points of contention as I was growing up. My mom used to say, it only exists on one side of the relationship. Sooner or later, one of the partners wants to make it deeper or admits to deeper feelings. I think my mom may have been right, judging from this group of friends.

twj

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Chatterbox
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Re: Friendship

College bonds are forged in a rather artificial environment and can either strengthen or be challenged outside that environment. In general, I think that when members of a group formed during such a critical period of someone's evolution as an independent individual -- independent of the family -- first start forming outside relationships, it challenges the group, as we saw at Lil's wedding. Some people drift away from the group more easily -- Tal, for instance, who never strikes me as being as integral a member, who we never see except through the eyes of another member of the group.

 

What brings them together? Common interests, common values, common experiences. An interest in the arts, broadly speaking -- music, poetry, literature, theater. But college is an odd environment, one where you aren't required to venture outside your self-chosen group. Once you venture into the work world, you can't choose to ignore those you must interact with (as Sadie finds at her job, with her boss, as Beth finds with the professor who chews her out for what she sees as Beth's presumption & carelessness, as Dave finds with the members of the band.) You can either adjust to new types of relationships, or cling ever more tightly to those bonds -- if you can.

 

The character that puzzles me most in this context is Lil. At the outset, she seems to be the first to be willing to challenge that bond in a significant way -- Tuck becomes the person she will talk to at 3 a.m. And yet, by the end of the book, as other characters have followed her lead, she seems to need that network more than the others. Anyone else have a thought on this? 

 

I'm not sure that the friendship of the group impacts its members as much as they would like to believe. No one notices the strain that caring for Clara is taking on Emily; Lil seems to be heading for perilous waters without anyone intervening or monitoring it; etc. In some ways, it feels as if the ties of friendship exist more as a form of nostalgia than anything else. I think I'm trying to say that it is idealized friendship, based on shared experiences in a unique and intense environment, that never really makes the transition to a 'real' friendship. (In the same way, perhaps, that the romance of being "in love" must morph into "loving" if a long-term relationship or marriage is to be sustainable.) They cherish an idea or ideal of each other; increasingly that has little to do with reality. 

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Grace2133
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Re: Friendship

College friendships are rather unique in my opinion. These friendships are forged during a time of discovery and change. People are normally not the same emotionally going into these friendships as they are coming out of them. Similar experiences and environments can unify people from different familial environments and social situations but after college, people are often too different for these friendships to survive. They also suffer from not being in close proximity.

 

I think life after college is the main test to the friendship between the group of friends in the novel. They are no longer in the same situations. They are different people than they were in college and their friendship suffers because of it.

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kiakar
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Friendship

You are right, college is a good time to make lasting friends because a person usually is mature enought to accept differences in others and have set morals for their life which does not get influenced by others. It seems that these friends would have been closer even after college but then they went in different directions alot too. They seemed so alike in many ways but were any of them consistedly  have the confidence that is necessary to have a sucessful life. It seemed they all had trouble with that.  Once they stumbled it was hard to get up again and suceed.

 

 

 

 


Grace2133 wrote:

College friendships are rather unique in my opinion. These friendships are forged during a time of discovery and change. People are normally not the same emotionally going into these friendships as they are coming out of them. Similar experiences and environments can unify people from different familial environments and social situations but after college, people are often too different for these friendships to survive. They also suffer from not being in close proximity.

 

I think life after college is the main test to the friendship between the group of friends in the novel. They are no longer in the same situations. They are different people than they were in college and their friendship suffers because of it.


 

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KxBurns
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Re: Friendship


Chatterbox wrote:

[edited]

I'm not sure that the friendship of the group impacts its members as much as they would like to believe. No one notices the strain that caring for Clara is taking on Emily; Lil seems to be heading for perilous waters without anyone intervening or monitoring it; etc. In some ways, it feels as if the ties of friendship exist more as a form of nostalgia than anything else. I think I'm trying to say that it is idealized friendship, based on shared experiences in a unique and intense environment, that never really makes the transition to a 'real' friendship. (In the same way, perhaps, that the romance of being "in love" must morph into "loving" if a long-term relationship or marriage is to be sustainable.) They cherish an idea or ideal of each other; increasingly that has little to do with reality. 


I absolutely agree!

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KxBurns
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Re: Friendship

It's interesting because we see some of the characters with other friends or in contexts outside of the group. For instance, Dave has his band friends and his neighbor friends, Sadie becomes friendly with Dave's ex Meredith. But these friendships are always a corollary to "the group" and the group relationships always seem to take precedence over newer acquaintances.

 

I remember that phase, where my closest friends from college were geographically distant and also just not as big a part of my life as they had been, but they were still the people I considered my best or core friends. And, of course, some of that is enduring -- there is a special place for those friendships that remain close in spite of distance and time. But I think after a while the friends you see all the time, who share your current interests and your recent memories and know you as you are today, come to occupy a more primary space in your psyche.

 

It's not even about rating the closeness of friendships, or thinking that one is better than another. It's just that with maturity and persepctive you become able to let go of the idea that these intense college friendships are the closest and truest friendships you will ever have. I think the book is really successful in depicting this bittersweet process. 

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mattzay
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Re: Friendship

I agree about how the test of college relationships is what happens when people leave college behind. I have a few good friends, that I met in college, and are still very close to even though we live far away. Other friends of mine have slowly faded away. I can see that happening to some of the characters in the book as their lives grow and progress differently. Emily appears to be the most different so it would be no surprise to me that she winds up fading away. Sadie and Beth might stay close but only because they have children not that far apart in age. They appear to be at the same stage. Lil already started to become a recluse in part because it seems that she seems unwilling to let change happen. Tuck also plays a role in her detachment because he is so self-centered and moody that he does not appear to allow her to have a life outside of him.
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mapleann
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Re: Friendship

As the book club members have discussed their own personal experiences in maintaining friendships beyond the college years, it suddenly caused me to view the book in a different light. What I am seeing through the narrations, sometimes impartial, and sometimes from a character's POV, is the working of a group that is largely growing into a group of individual heading in their own direction.

 

I think back to the groups that I have known from H.S. or college, what parts do I hear? I hear the marriages, the comments about who has done what or who is sleeping with who, etc.  What we are reading in A Fortunate Age are the snippets that are brought into conversation. There remains a closeness, an old common bond, but yet everyone is so distant at the same time. I am sure that all the characters have hobbies, lives, and friendships that we are not seeing in the story. Their Oberlin group is still a part of who they are, but they have also branched-out as well.

 

Being part of a group that has managed to keep contact, but not cohesivley, breeds a bond that is like a old fabric with holes, patches, and some tears. The life experiences that are not monumental, or gossip worthy, are not going to make it into the knowledge of the group, hence it is not going to make it into the book. As time moves on, and lives become more complex, then the events that make "news" in the group are going to change too and become more infrequent...such as discovering Dave is shaking hands with "their husbands". This is just one way I make more sense of the novel, and it means more to me. Now that I have taken this perspective, I have gotten more enjoyment out of reading about the characters. I don't think the characters are as down trodden as they appear. They have a life beyond Oberlin.

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dhaupt
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Re: Friendship

Even though it's not made into a big deal I think that they're all being of the same faith is one of the things that brought them together. And as they flashed on the commencement luncheon from college where all the friends and their parents in attendance told us how they felt about marriage, they didn't care about money, had the same tastes in art, books, magazines in other words were the late 1990's Jewish equivalent to James Dean only much more educated.

However as the years pass by they find they're more like their parents than they want to admit and that like the rest of free world find themselves in the quagmire of "real life" and money isn't as bad as they once thought and I think they also realize that life can't exist in a cold water flat w/no kitchen sink forever. But their friendships are still developing and unraveling so we'll just have to wait and see what the future holds.

As far as the impact of the friendship on the group, right now I think they all hold it together because that's what they know and are still afraid enough of the future to go too far from the familiar. 

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Tarri
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Re: Friendship


dhaupt wrote:

Even though it's not made into a big deal I think that they're all being of the same faith is one of the things that brought them together. And as they flashed on the commencement luncheon from college where all the friends and their parents in attendance told us how they felt about marriage, they didn't care about money, had the same tastes in art, books, magazines in other words were the late 1990's Jewish equivalent to James Dean only much more educated.

However as the years pass by they find they're more like their parents than they want to admit and that like the rest of free world find themselves in the quagmire of "real life" and money isn't as bad as they once thought and I think they also realize that life can't exist in a cold water flat w/no kitchen sink forever. But their friendships are still developing and unraveling so we'll just have to wait and see what the future holds.

As far as the impact of the friendship on the group, right now I think they all hold it together because that's what they know and are still afraid enough of the future to go too far from the familiar. 


Excellent points, Debbie.

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kolsonheld
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Re: Friendship

I wonder if Sadie doesn't tell Lil about Tuck's affair because of what it might do to their friendship or because they have drifted apart. While sharing that information may not be appreciated at the time, I would think that a person would be more upset about not being told if a friend knows. Sadie doesn't seem to have a reason for not telling Lil other than avoiding conflict.
Karin
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booksJT
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Re: Friendship

I think that while they were college they were forced to be friends. They needed each other because of their similiar backgrounds.  They shared common interests and values. But once they left college they developed different interest and values. Their friendship wasn't as important as it was in school. Emily now had to take responsibilty of her sister because of her parents unwillingness to let Clara live with them. Sadie and Beth would be closer because they had kids of the same age. Lil was wrapped up in Tuck's life. Tuck's selfishness  kept her from allowing her friends into her life. He didn't want to share her with her friends.  
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maryfrancesa
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Re: Friendship

I agree with your take on friendship.  I wonder if the group became friends based on

who was friends with whom and that are all seemed to have the same majors.  IT seems that they are grew apart and for that the girls except Emily went on to graduate school so they drifted apart.  It seems that the wedding brought  them together. 

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kiakar
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Re: Friendship

I really feel it is an individual thing with us all. Some people attach themselves to old friends where some are outof the door of high school and college and into a new way of life and a new slew of friends. My oldest and youngest daughters were like this and my middle daughter still has two close high school friends  plus two close college friends.  So really, it seems its the character of each person as to the closeness that iskept through life with aquaintances.
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liisa22
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Re: Friendship

I think you have hit on the head here.  Sometimes, what we feel are friendships that will never be any less strong while we are young, are stretched far as we enter the workforce, get married, move, etc.

booksJT wrote:
I think that while they were college they were forced to be friends. They needed each other because of their similiar backgrounds.  They shared common interests and values. But once they left college they developed different interest and values. Their friendship wasn't as important as it was in school. Emily now had to take responsibilty of her sister because of her parents unwillingness to let Clara live with them. Sadie and Beth would be closer because they had kids of the same age. Lil was wrapped up in Tuck's life. Tuck's selfishness  kept her from allowing her friends into her life. He didn't want to share her with her friends.  


 

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krb2g
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Re: Friendship


KxBurns wrote:

...snipped...

 

I remember that phase, where my closest friends from college were geographically distant and also just not as big a part of my life as they had been, but they were still the people I considered my best or core friends. And, of course, some of that is enduring -- there is a special place for those friendships that remain close in spite of distance and time. But I think after a while the friends you see all the time, who share your current interests and your recent memories and know you as you are today, come to occupy a more primary space in your psyche.

 


I get what you're saying about space, Karen, and I wonder if this geography thing is part of why Beth makes the (somewhat disasterous) move back to New York--in New York they're all (except Tal, who really drifts off as his acting career takes off) somewhat geographically close, but because they aren't going to school together anymore everything has changed anyway, and while they see each other at parties (at least that's where we mostly see them interacting as a group), the friendships have changed and grown more distant.

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detailmuse
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Re: Friendship


thewanderingjew wrote:

Platonic friendships were always points of contention as I was growing up. My mom used to say, it only exists on one side of the relationship. Sooner or later, one of the partners wants to make it deeper or admits to deeper feelings. I think my mom may have been right, judging from this group of friends.

twj


 

Are we sisters?? :smileyhappy:

 

Whenever my mom referred to my "platonic" friendships, the quote marks were reflected in the tone of her voice! That irritated me because I wanted to think that I was in control, that men and women of my generation were so evolved. But she was often right.

 

I think the evolution is mostly in the social permissibility of casual, opposite-sex friendships.