October 10, 2008 2 Comments
I just finished reading Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, and the ending very much reminded me of an old Jezebel post from this summer about the quarter life crisis versus the return of Saturn. You know, how everybody in their twenties tends to have a moment where their world breaks a bit, and it is often framed as, oh are you 27 or 28, must be your return of Saturn? Or, oh, are you isolated and living in Tokyo, you lucky full-lipped thing? They did a great job or parsing the subject, pretty much boiling it down to the flummox before we get a sign that our life is going to make sense. In the Jezebel writer’s case, she got a job, and calmed the fuck down. This calming does seem to depend on that very important thing (job, plan, opportunity) actually arriving (which I liken to the comet Dimmesdale sees in the sky in The Scarlet Letter).
Lessing’s characters seem to go through a similar process, all self scrutiny and intense panicked thought, until, voila, jobs and marriages are agreed to. Then it is a fast, slap-of-the-hands, end. Which, brings me to the bildungsroman ending where the young hero, after his or her adventures, has to decide whether to return and join the community through marriage or job taking, or keeps going into the wilderness, decidedly a lone wolf (much like the Amish rumspringa tradition). Molly and Anna are not immature women, and their decisions arrive in middle age, after children and full histories. They also need less of each other once their decisions have been made, much like Scarlett leaving Bill Murray and going off to her future, probably publishing her first book through her richie-pants connections and going on to write provocative things about how boring the culture class in America is. I want to puke on my future version of her, and also be her, wear her clothes, and write her scathing richie-pants words. But that is not the point. I wonder if we leave behind the structures of support we find in the wilderness when we agree to go back to the fold, something like Tarzan waving good-bye to the apes as he puts on his tuxedo. But, isn’t part of why Tarzan is awesome is that he never actually does that? He and the apes keep in touch?
Back to the bildungsoman, there is something in this…is all angst calmed by an acceptance of purpose, with the search being traded in for any answer at all?