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A Valuable Life Lesson
am 19. Mai 2000
Anne Tyler's book Breathing Lessons uses countless motifs to convey her message that no human being is perfect, nor is any relationship ideal. It tells the story of Maggie and Ira Moran, involved in a relationship that has gone stale after 28 years of marriage. Maggie, depicted with the repeated "frizz" motif, is characterized by her ditsy, scatterbrained personality. She tries in vain throughout the whole novel to selflessly mend everyone's problems, mainly in efforts to save her son's marriage. Ira, her pessimistic, chiding husband simply engrosses himself in negative views about the "wasteful" human race and avoids Maggie if possible, otherwise remains quietly tolerant of her extremely obnoxious chatter. Even Maggie describes him as "one of those people who are born competent" (Tyler, 234.) The basic plot includes the couple's trip to an old friend's funeral, their insignificant adventures along the way, and a flashback to earlier years during their marriage. Although the flashback section tends to get tedious and wordy, it includes some of life's most meaningful lessons. It depicts the Moran's son Jesse's devotion to his wife and child after living a contrasting rebellious teenage life (continually symbolized by a "black" motif). Mainly, the book is packed full of the contrasting views of Maggie, the idealist who sees everyone with good intentions and pure hearts, and Ira, the realist who sadly often sees things in the sad state they truly are in. The motifs "hot" and "sticky" are used to foreshadow arguments betweeen the two. Their optimistic/pessimistic views are the main spark for their arguments, though it is also what keeps their marriage alive. The book ends with the quote, "Then she slipped free and moved to her side of the bed, because tomorrow they had a long car trip to make and she knew she would need a good night's sleep before they started" (Tyler, 338). This statement symbolizes their journey in the future as a married couple, and leads the reader to believe that their marriage will survive. The book follows a loosely structured plot and focuses on comical situations between two fairly unhappily married people who succeed in the end. A reader who enjoys psychological, yet easy to read love stories about the flaws of human nature would definitely enjoy this book.