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KxBurns
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Lenny

In a sense, Lenny remains more distant and less knowable than the other characters because we always encounter him through the eyes of his family members. How is this an effective metaphor for Lenny's role?

 

In what ways is Lenny a product of radicalism and with what impact?

 

What are the factors that contribute to Lenny's substance abuse and what factors propel him toward recovery? In what does Lenny place his belief?
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Guerneymember12
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Re: Lenny

It's appropriate that we see lenny through other people's eyes because lenny never makes any choices for his life.  He's just floating out there for now, in a haze of drugs, no job or responsibility, and no one to provide for.  And Audrey is not helping anything by giving him the things he needs in order to lead this life and by failing(not wanting) to see the signs of his addiction.  Even his ditzy girlfriend seems to make more decisions in life. (He isn't even faithful to her)

He has been orphaned because of his birth parent's radicalism and then placed with a family who live politics, and he's even forced to sit at weekend breakfasts where's he's taught a different political topic until he cannot stand it and runs to his Audrey (safety from anything he does not want to do).  but in this case I agree he should not have been forced to listen to talks about the subject that, (and if I remember correctly Joel even used his mother as an example in a couple discussions,) to him was the cause of the loss of his parents.  Instead Of Rosa looking for something to take the place that Joel has forced politics to take in their lives with something meaningful, he chose something to try to make it all go away or help him forget it...

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HannibalCat
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Re: Lenny


Guerneymember12 wrote:

It's appropriate that we see lenny through other people's eyes because lenny never makes any choices for his lifeHe's just floating out there for now, in a haze of drugs, no job or responsibility, and no one to provide forAnd Audrey is not helping anything by giving him the things he needs in order to lead this life and by failing(not wanting) to see the signs of his addictionEven his ditzy girlfriend seems to make more decisions in life. (He isn't even faithful to her)

____________________________________________________________________________
 Great observations. I totally agree with your vision of his inability to make choices. He is lost in a land of adults and isn't even interested in becoming his own man.
When he does try to get himself free of drugs he didn't even make that decision. It was made for him by Jean. However, he seemed to finally get it and tried hard to make it work. I got the sense that he gave it all up after Joel's death.  It seems that he went right back to being Audrey's little boy.

 

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KxBurns
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Re: Lenny


HannibalCat wrote:
[edited] He is lost in a land of adults and isn't even interested in becoming his own man.
When he does try to get himself free of drugs he didn't even make that decision. It was made for him by Jean. However, he seemed to finally get it and tried hard to make it work. I got the sense that he gave it all up after Joel's death.  It seems that he went right back to being Audrey's little boy.

 


Lenny always fades into the background a bit, doesn't he?

 

You know, I read the ending as more ambiguous with regard to Lenny. Although he comes back from Bucks County and appears to be back with Tanya, I guess I had some hope that he would still pull it together. I interpreted Lenny's return as a rejection of AA/NA (belief systems after all) more than of recovery in general. But now as I type it, it seems dubious!...

 

How do you all assess Lenny's chances, and why?

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KxBurns
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Re: Lenny


Guerneymember12 wrote:

[edited]

He has been orphaned because of his birth parent's radicalism and then placed with a family who live politics, and he's even forced to sit at weekend breakfasts where's he's taught a different political topic until he cannot stand it and runs to his Audrey (safety from anything he does not want to do).  but in this case I agree he should not have been forced to listen to talks about the subject that, (and if I remember correctly Joel even used his mother as an example in a couple discussions,) to him was the cause of the loss of his parents.  Instead Of Rosa looking for something to take the place that Joel has forced politics to take in their lives with something meaningful, he chose something to try to make it all go away or help him forget it...


You're absolutely right -- Lenny is in an extremely difficult position in a family that glorifies the very thing that has cost him the presence of his mother in his life. Audrey's recollection of how, as a boy, Lenny would entreat Susan to go over and over the details of her capture and arrest is heartbreaking. You can just picture the child trying to make sense of it all... No wonder he's so lost!

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dhaupt
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Re: Lenny

When Lenny was first introduced to us I found him like any spoiled over indulged kid, but as I got to know him better and saw his dependency problems I began to better understand him as the perfect example of a product of his environment. Now let me explain why I think that. I see Lenny as always looking for something wether it be love or understanding or acceptance I can't say what, but how could he have had a chance with the great enabler as a mom and a dad who merely tolerated him. By the end of the book I really started to respect him especially when he refused to let Audrey sway him from apprenticing with the tradesman, but by the funeral I started to wonder if he had already relapsed. In seeing him in five years down the road I, as an optimist would love to see him as a productive member of society, but me realist side is leaning toward a life of total dependency until it finally kills him.
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Re: Lenny


KxBurns wrote:
In a sense, Lenny remains more distant and less knowable than the other characters because we always encounter him through the eyes of his family members. How is this an effective metaphor for Lenny's role?

 


  It's an effective metaphor because Lenny exists in the story as an adjunct to the characterization of the others especially Audrey. We don't see what Lenny thinks and needs in his own first person voice. We see how others relate to Lenny. Audrey does not think of Lenny's needs when she wants him not to take the apprenticeship but come back home. It's about how Audrey needs Lenny to fulfill herself.

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nikkid
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Re: Lenny

I enjoyed the character of Lenny.  In my opinion, Lenny didn't have much of a belief system at all.  Unlike the rest of his family, it seems to me that he just did whatever it was he wanted to and whatever brought him immediate pleasure.  This was in stark contrast to the other members of his family who sometimes just thought too much. 

Although I did not agree with his personal lifestyle.  I did find him to be that character that brought with him a breath of fresh air!

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lamorgan
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Re: Lenny

Lenny seems to have been pulled in opposite directions his entire life.

Joel was so hard-core with him. Constantly riding him for every little thing.

Audrey, on the other hand, indulged his every whim.

And his own mother obviously loved him, but couldn't care for him by herself.

His addictions, in this light, is understandable. Add to that the fact that Audrey and Joel obviously never hid their own drug use from the children and you have a combination that screams "junky."

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KxBurns
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Re: Lenny

You've all made some good points here. What I think Lenny is lacking is a sense that he can accomplish things on his own. Audrey's continuing to come to his "rescue" does not help matters...

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ilenekm
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Re: Lenny

I agree that Lenny does not have the sense  that he can accomplish things on his own but I believe that part of that is Audrey trying to control him. This is evident when he is in PA and has made somewhat of a turn around.  Audrey comments about him needing someone to watch over him when he seems to be doing ok with his recovery where he is. This seems more to be a case of Audrey needing someone to care for rather than Lenny needing to be cared for.  Lenny seems for once to be happy with his new life and apprenticeship and Audrey cannot handle it.
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katknit
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Re: Lenny

Debbie,

You've hit Lenny's nail right on the head. He has what psychologists would call "learned helplessness". You've analyzed the parental interactions accurately, and I think your prognosis for Lenny is spot on. 

No two persons ever read the same book. [Edmund Wilson]
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thewanderingjew
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Re: Lenny

KxBurns wrote:
In a sense, Lenny remains more distant and less knowable than the other characters because we always encounter him through the eyes of his family members. How is this an effective metaphor for Lenny's role?

Lenny is considered a part of the family but he was never legally adopted. He is of them and yet not of them. He is an outsider. Although Audrey acts as if she is his "only" mother, she is only a "surrogate" or caretaker because his real mother is in prison. Actually, his real mom sees him differently and has different expectations than Audrey does. Audrey forgives all of his irresponsible behavior while his mom, although she has little influence or power over him, seems to expect more from him. Audrey seems to resent her presence in his life and seems jealous, at times, of their relationship.
Lenny is alternately depicted as a victim of circumstances and a victim by choice. We see him as a child, not an adult through the eyes of his family. Perhaps none of them ever let him grow up.

In what ways is Lenny a product of radicalism and with what impact?

I found it strange that Audrey's maternal instinct developed for the only child that was not biologically hers. Perhaps her inflated social conscience influenced her decision to take this child in and love him, more than her own. She felt an enormous responsibility toward this child who was so needy and alone. That need, however, was so unhealthy that she smothered Lenny and he became the most emotionally arrested of the children, not only because of his early childhood with his mother but also because of Audrey's over protective behavior.
When you read about him you think he is still a child but in actuality, is he a full grown dysfunctional adult. Audrey has been a true "helicopter parent". She has never let him jump from the nest and fly on his own. For some reason, she does not hold him responsible for his actions.
In the days of Lenny's childhood, parents were reading Dr. Spock, who encouraged more radical and lenient forms of upbringing which began to replace the more disciplined school of thought that previously existed. Audrey, being a "free thinker" would probably have embraced those methods which encouraged "intensive parenting" which gave much more freedom to the child to discipline itself and also over analyzed the behavior of the child, always making excuses in one form or another for aberrant behavior of the child or deficient behavior of the parent.
Conversation replaced discipline whenever there was a crisis. There were fewer rules and limits set up so many children floundered without the usual adult guidance or behavioral expectations. Some adults over-interpreted this more "psychological approach" of allowing a child "to discover himself" and "discipline himself". Basically the child was allowed to make all the decisions and some, without the proper guidance, left to their own devices, failed to make the responsible decisions. Parents blamed themselves for the child's mistakes and as a result, the child was given a pass and suffered no consequences for his behavior. Some children overcame this lack of authority and instruction at home. Lenny, did not. For Lenny, there were no real repercussions for his immature and destructive behavior so he didn't have to change. Audrey had no expectations of him and often prevented Joel from disciplining him. She just wouldn't let him grow up or act responsibly. She couldn't let go.
I think once having discovered her maternal instinct, she was unwilling to give it up.

What are the factors that contribute to Lenny's substance abuse and what factors propel him toward recovery? In what does Lenny place his belief?

I think Lenny's substance abuse comes from an inability to deal with the suffocating effects of Audrey's love. It isn't until Lenny leaves her and goes to live with her friend Jean, that he starts to make real progress in getting his life together. He finds that others actually trust him and believe in his ability to be responsible and healthy. Without her hovering over him, almost expecting him to fail, he begins to succeed. He is allowed to think for himself and he does.
In the end, he appears to once again be trapped by Audrey's need for him and he decides to return home to be with her. It is that same need that has destroyed his ability to become a man. We find him with Tanya and we are left wondering if he is back on drugs or if he will step into his father's shoes. Will he be there as a man for Audrey? Is it Audrey's need for him that drives him back or his need for her to baby him? Perhaps they feed off each other.
It is interesting that Audrey could not control her husband or Lenny. She chose to surround Lenny with her constant attention and protection, always forgiving all his sins without any expecting him to make any recompense for them. In some ways, she treated Joel in the same way, accepting his assignations as behavior expected with men like him and forgiving his sins without expecting him to own up to them either.
Poor Audrey..., what a bed she made for herself!
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KxBurns
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Re: Lenny

TWJ, your comment is full of terrific insights. I especially like your point about conversation replacing discipline -- I think traces of this can be seen in all three Litvinoff children. To some degree their individual struggles can all be viewed as a tug-of-war between talk/thought and action...
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CAG
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Re: Lenny


KxBurns wrote:

You've all made some good points here. What I think Lenny is lacking is a sense that he can accomplish things on his own. Audrey's continuing to come to his "rescue" does not help matters...


I think he lacks a belief in himself.

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detailmuse
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Re: Lenny


nikkid wrote:

Unlike the rest of his family, it seems to me that [Lenny] just did whatever it was he wanted to and whatever brought him immediate pleasure.


Exactly. He thinks he's floating and deferring life decisions, but he's actually making decisions in every moment. Every time he chooses to drink or drug or not finish a project, he's choosing a specific life path.

 

I think he's relapsed at the time of Joel's service -- certainly relapsed in two problematic areas (his mother and Tanya), and probably drugs too. I think the ambiguity about him at the novel's end signifies that he'll continue in a long pattern of recovery and relapse.

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debbook
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Re: Lenny

I felt bad for Lenny, being the product of a failed "experiment" as Joel refers to him. I'm sure he picked up on that growing up. And Audrey babied him, so he was caught between two parents, plus his biological mother. It's no wonder he turned to drugs. I really felt that he was taking charge of his life in PA even when Audrey tried to derail him(more reasons i don't like her). I felt bad that he seemed to be falling back into old patterns  at the end of the book. Some people aren't motivated enough to change until they hit rock bottom. And he hasn't yet. And Audrey will make sure he doesn't. I think he is very alone.
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EJD0626
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Re: Lenny

Lenny is the one character I really feel for the most. I hate how Audrey completely enables his addiction and even encourages him. She does not want him to get better at all--she enjoys bailing him out of his bad decisions. He obviously never had a chance--Joel viewed him as an "experiment," his biological mother is a mess, his father is gone (was he dead? I don't remember) & Audrey more than likely let him run wild, never making him face any consequences. No wonder the poor guy is an addict & loser. I don't have much faith for him--I think he had relapsed by the time of the service.
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Carmenere_lady
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Re: Lenny


KxBurns wrote:

You've all made some good points here. What I think Lenny is lacking is a sense that he can accomplish things on his own. Audrey's continuing to come to his "rescue" does not help matters...


 

So true Karen.  At 34, it's already sort of late to turn him into an independent person.  Come on!  Audrey gives him a $100 a week allowance!?  Gee, what would he need that for?  To feed his habit?  Doesn't she see this?  Oh, but how Audrey needs Lenny to need her.  Nobody else does.  Or if they do they would never say so because they would be ridiculed with Audrey's snide remarks.
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Bonnie824
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Re: Lenny

I was left hopeful about Lenny. He may fight drug issues for all or much of his life, but there has to be something about him that causes Audrey, his mother, Tanya to care so much about him. He must be giving them something back.

I can also see why he began using drugs (given his environment) and why it is so hard for him to stop (almost all addiction programs are based on belief in God).