The marriage plot was a common literary device in Victorian literature. It is exactly what it sounds like-a story line revolving around making a proper marriage. In these more modern times when marriages are more emotional compacts than social contracts, the marriage plot as such is no longer a valid device. However, as the title implies, Eugenides is making an attempt to give new life to an outmoded plot frame.
As I’m writing I’m still trying to decide if I like the story or not – never a good sign. It seems to be a story about the main character, Madeline, making a good marriage. There are two men involved, Leonard and Mitchell. And, I’ve got to tell you, if I’d been Madeline, I’d have chosen none of the above.
Mitchell, on the day he meets Madeline, determines to marry her, but does little to achieve this despite early encouragement from her. Deciding to marry Madeline is a longer, slower process for Leonard. A large portion of the book is spent analyzing the agonies endured by Leonard due to ill-controlled manic-depression. Another large portion is devoted to Mitchell’s travels abroad, his work volunteering for Mother Teresa, and his spiritual development.
I would have liked to have seen more about Madeline and her relationship with Mitchell, and less about the details of coping with the day to day trauma of Leonard’s illness. This story felt very unbalanced to me. I know a lot more about the men than I need to, and not enough about Madeline and her motivations.