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The Marriage Plot

Travel! Quests for enlightenment?

In “The Marriage Plot,” Mitchell and his roommate set off for a year of travel, and some planned field work, at the end of their first post-college summer. Beginning in Paris, then meandering their way through Europe before landing in India, their travel becomes more than sightseeing and almost elevates to quests for personal enlightenment and self-discovery.

Have you ever traveled extensively, with no set route and only a loose idea of where you’d end up? If so, share your stories…we know you have them!

Post-College Plans

Like Madeline, Mitchell, and Leonard, many of us spent at least part of college–even if it was just the final semester or two–thinking about what the next steps were going to be. There are so many decisions to make at that point in our lives: what city to live in, who to live with (or to live alone), what job to take, what industry to work in, how to live as adults. And each little decision we make sets us up with a little firmer understanding of the world we’ll contribute to and our role within it. Some of the decisions we make don’t work out. Some of the most significant decisions of our early adult life aren’t in line with our plans. All of these shape who we are and what we’ll do.

What did you expect your life to look like as a college senior? How closely has your life come to matching those expectations? Join the conversation here!

Defining college culture

Cultural touchstones – songs, events, innovations – anchor us to specific times and places, and often serve as instant connection points with others. It isn’t until page 14 that we know the year in which The Marriage Plot is set. However, cultural clues are sprinkled throughout the opening pages to subtly give readers an idea of the time:

  • the Talking Heads epigraph;
  • Patti Smith’s music;
  • New Wave band posters;
  • Elvis Costello glasses.

The most poignant touchstone for me (aka, I started singing it out loud!) was the song playing in the restaurant where Madeleine takes her parents for breakfast the morning of graduation:

So what cultural touchstones define your college years? What songs, events, fashions, books, movies, innovations do you recall? Do they help define your college experience? We’d love to hear about them!

Selecting a Major

We’re really looking forward to discussing this book! There are many topics we plan to address, but we thought we’d start with something that came up early in the book: the selection of a college major. On page 21, Eugenides wrote that Madeleine “[had] become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.” Just after that he writes,

… That left a large contingent of people majoring in English by default. Because they weren’t left-brained enough for science, because history was too dry, philosophy too difficult, geology too petroleum-oriented, and math too mathematical–because they weren’t musical, artistic, financially motivated, or really all that smart, these people were pursuing university degrees doing something no different from what they’d done in first grade: reading stories. English was what people who didn’t know what to major in majored in.

As you might guess, that generated a lot of conversation between Molly and me and we thought you might have something to say on the topic, too. What did you major in? How did you make that choice? Or, now that you’ve graduated, what thoughts do you have about your major or the process you used to identify it?

We look forward to hearing from you! Add your comments here!

New month, new read!

Welcome to March, the second month of the DeacsRead alumni book club! Molly Keener and Lauren Pressley, librarians at ZSR Library, are excited to be this month’s discussion leaders for “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides. If you’ve not yet picked up a copy of the book, we hope you will grab one and begin reading over the weekend — discussion will start early next week!

In the meantime, if you are interested in being notified of new discussion posts for this book via email, fill out this form:

Happy reading!