Archive forNovember 30, 2011

New Critic

Madeleine had been trying to beat Alton [in tennis] her entire life without success. This was even more infuriating because she was better than he was, at this point. But whenever she took a set from Alton he started intimidating her, acting mean, disputing calls, and her game fell apart. Madeleine was worried that there was something paradigmatic in this, that she was destined to go through life being cowed by less capable men. As a result, Madeleine’s tennis matches against Alton had assumed such outsize personal significance for her that she got tight whenever she played him, with predictable results. (10)

Certain word choices in this passage helps develop the theme of mania in the novel. In particular, Madeleine’s father’s obsession with beating his daughter in tennis is another example of it. According to Madeleine, she is better than her father, but her father refuses to give in to his daughter and resorts to some pretty dirty tactics to intimidate her and cause her to falter in her game. He may have been just playing around, but the fact that it was her father acting so hostile may be his obsession to not lose to anyone. With Madeleine, she is obsessed with romanticizing her life and believes she is “destined” to go through life like this, which is a bit dramatic and over the top for this incident. Her father is proactively trying to best her in tennis, but in all the other cases with the men in her life, she is the one subjecting herself to their dominance and will over her. She uses “destined” and this is problematic because she is giving up already in a sense. When something is foretold by destiny, the person being affected has no say in anything and no will, so she is technically allowing herself to be swept up by this emotion. A tennis match is just a tennis match, but Madeleine is making it something far more important than it is, especially in how it determines the rest of her life and her successes or autonomy, and this is another form of romanticizing things. She is shirking off the responsibility that is hers by allowing the way she is treated to be “destiny” which may be a result of her obsession with romanticizing things.


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