Purity: Love Over Time

While Franzen follows a very periodical timeline in parts of Purity I felt a stronger connection with his characters, Tom and Annabel when he told their story in reverse. Starting with their divorce and the problems they struggle with as a couple felt very vulnerable and raw. The intensity of their passion in the woods intermingled with their problems was very real and I felt connected to them. This juxtaposed with the story of how they met including the descriptive details of their first kiss and initial emotions and thoughts towards each other made me feel sad knowing how their love story would end.

Even though the timeline is out of order I still believe Franzen follows his “realist” style in his writing. While humans are always in the present living day by day, the past crosses our minds daily. Thinking about past relationships, fond memories, not so great memories etc. is a very real and natural thing to do. By telling the love story of Tom and Annabel out of order it reminds the reader of the forever lingering of love and the complications that arise when love remains but people move on.

One thought on “Purity: Love Over Time

  1. Although I could of made this a new blog focusing on how the characters continue to feel so real to me, I felt it best attached to Zoe’s post about love. The passages interwoven throughout the novel connecting love and the characters together have such an empowering effect on me and my thoughts on the narrator as it relates to the novel. Franzen gives insight and details about individuals in the novel that, in my mind, would be hard to imagine or create authentically as he does.

    In one of my favorites passages Franzen writes, “[h]ers turned out to be April eighth. Mine is August fourth. The symmetry of 4/8 and 8/4 had a powerful effect on Anabel… She said staring at me as if I were an apparition. “Did you just make that up? Is your birthday really August fourth?” The signs meant more to her than they did to me. For her they were a way for us to be about more than just chemistry, to be something in the stars, while for me they served mainly to confirm the chemistry of my feelings for her. When the wine had warmed her up and she took off her jean jacket, I saw my fate not in calendrical coincidence but in the thinness of her upper arms, in what they did to my heart” (388).

    I can highly relate to the part in the passage about odd coincidences, however, I have never seen it written in such a way in a novel. Anabel and Tom, in this passage in particular, feel so real to me as characters. By no means do the characters feel fictional or made up by Franzen.

    Furthermore, I think it is interesting how Franzen decides to portray each individual in the passage above. I believe Anabel is portrayed as having an innocent and pure love for connecting coincidences to Tom and the chemistry, where as, Tom, in the end of the passage, objectifies Anabel in order to justify his love for her. We have talked many times in class about whether Franzen, being the author, thinks like this and has projected “male” or his tendencies onto his various male characters. I do not understand why he would end a passage like this one with a line objectifying the person’s love. Nonetheless, love and lack of love has played such an impactful role in Purity that I wanted to comment one of my favorite passages of the novel. Ironically, the passage is filled with long, complicated sentences, which Franzen seems to only write or care for when telling a story. I wonder if he is a hard person to connect or interact with on a meaningful level because of his extreme personality.


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