Jeffrey Eugenidies

The Marriage Plot

In Madeleine's face was a stupidity Mitchell had never seen before. It was the stupidity of all normal people. It was the stupidity of the fortunate and beautiful, of everybody who got what they wanted in life and so remained unremarkable. 77

Under the estranging power of the marijuana, not to mention four years at college, Mitchell was depressed by the tacky denim sun visor his mother was wearing and by his parents' general lack of sophistication. But something was happening to him. The gates were doing something to him already, because as he raised his hand to wave back at his parents, Mitchell felt ten years old again, tearing up, choked with feeling for these two human beings who, like figures from myth, had possessed the ability throughout his life to blend into the background, to turn to stone or wood, only to come alive again, at key moments like this, to witness his hero's journey. 117

Had she known from the outset about his manic depression, his messed-up family, his shrink habit, Madeleine would never have allowed herself to get so passionately involved. But now that she was passionately involved, she found little to regret. To feel so much was its own justification. 126

Every letter was a love letter. 221

It seemed especially cruel, then, three days later, in the hospital, when the doctor came into the room to tell Leonard that he suffered from something that would never go away, something that could only be "managed," as if managing, for an eighteen-year-old looking out on life, could be any life at all. 247

What was interesting about being the needy one was how much in love you felt. It was almost worth it. This dependency was what Leonard had guarded himself against feeling all his life, but he couldn't do it anymore. He'd lost the ability to be an asshole. Now he was smitten, and it felt both tremendous and scary. 250

One thing I learned, between addiction and depression? Depression a lot worse. Depression ain't something you just get off of. You can't get clean from depression. Depression be like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch where it hurts. It always be there, though. —Darlene, 260

Leonard wasn't thinking about Madeleine, or Phyllidia, or Kilimnik. As he lay on the couch, he thought of his parents, those two planet-size beings who orbited his entire existence. And then he was off, back into the eternally recurring past. If you grew up in a house where you weren't loved, you didn't know there was an alternative. If you grew up with emotionally stunted parents, who were unhappy in their marriage and prone to visit that unhappiness on their children, you didn't know they were doing this. It was just your life. If you had an accident, at the age of four, when you were supposed to be a big boy, and were later served a plate of feces at the dinner table--if you were told to eat it because you liked it, didn't you, you must like it or you wouldn't have so many accidents--you didn't know that this wasn't happening in the other houses in your neighborhood. If your father left your family, and disappeared, never to return, and your mother seemed to resent you, as you grew older, for being the same sex as your father, you had no one to turn to. In all these cases, the damage was done before you knew you were damaged. The worst part was that, as the years passed, these memories became, in the way you kept them in a secret box in your head, taking them out every so often to turn them over and over, something like dear possessions. They were the key to your unhappiness. They were the evidence that life wasn't fair. If you weren't a lucky child, you didn't know you weren't lucky until you got older. And then it was all you ever thought about. 283

On the day before they flew back to the States, Madeleine left Leonard in the room while she went out to buy him cigarettes. The summer weather was lovely, the colors of the flowers in the park so bright they hurt her eyes. Up ahead, she saw an amazing sight, a troop of schoolgirls being led by a nun. They were crossing the street, heading into the courtyard of their school. Smiling for the first time in weeks, Madeleine watched them proceed. Ludwig Bemelmans had written sequels to Madeline. In one, Madeline had joined a gypsy circus. In another, she'd been saved from downing by a dog. But, despite all her adventures, Madeline had never gotten any older than eight. That was too bad. Madeleine could have used some helpful examples, further installments of the series. Madeline passing the baccalaureat. Madeline studying at the Sorbonne. ("And to writers like Camus, Madeline just said 'Poo poo.' ") Madeline practicing free love, or joining a commune, or traveling to Afghanistan. Madeline taking part in the '68 protests, throwing rocks at the police, or crying out, "Under the pavement, the beach."

Did Madeline marry Pepito, the Spanish ambassador's son? Was her hair still red? Was she still the smallest and the bravest?

Not exactly in two straight lines, but orderly enough, the girls disappeared through the doors of the convent school. Madeleine went back to the hotel, where Leonard, still bandaged up, a casualty of a different kind of war, was waiting.

They smiled at the good
and frowned at the bad
and sometimes they were very sad. 368-369