: "Undine is an extreme case of the
: unlikable person rendered perplexingly
: sympathetic by her desires. She’s almost
: comically indestructible, like Wile E.
: Coyote. The interest I take in her ascent,
: her Coyote-like survival of the seeming
: wipeout blows that her divorces deliver to
: her social standing, may be akin to the
: fascination of watching one spider in a jar
: prevail over other spiders, but I still
: can’t read the book without aligning myself
: with her struggle."
: H-m-m. Well, I can. I would have loved to
: see the book end with her complete ruin. I
: absolutely loathed her.
I wouldn't have liked - aesthetically - Undine's ruin. It's too much for me that at the end of Dangerous Liaisons when the woman is ruined both socially and physically (smallpox as I recall). I find Undine's end highly satisfying aesthetically. She gets all she wants and finds that she wanted something else and is dissatisfied. She's a failure from beginning to end because she can never really be happy for long.
I do not, however, sympathize with her. I never feel frustrated with her parents or Ralph or the Marquis for standing in her way as Franzen says. I feel frustrated with them, esp. with Ralph, for not casting her off, freeing themselves from her. Her parents hardly can, I suppose. The Marquis, to some extent, does. But poor Ralph is just besotted with love or something. Even when he thinks badly of her. I suppose his social codes tell him he must do all he can to make the marriage work. Van Degan is the lucky one. He never gets what he wants, but he doesn't get ruined.
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