Friedman's Fables Summary & Study Guide

Edwin Friedman
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Friedman's Fables Summary & Study Guide Description

Friedman's Fables Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Friedman's Fables by Edwin Friedman.

This collection of contemporary fables builds upon the long history and traditions of other such narratives including those written and presented by the legendary Aesop as it explores and comments upon various aspects of human behavior. As each fable dramatizes important moral questions as fables are generally intended to do, the collection as a whole explores issues related to the importance of self-responsibility, individuality, and identity.

The collection begins with a Prologue written by the author, in which he discusses the process by which the Fables came to be collected and published. He suggests that that process was made complicated by the input of several individuals who felt they had a responsibility to influence the content of the stories which, as the author claims, led to difficulties with the characters themselves who, he further claims, were far more influential in the creation of the fables than he was himself. He concludes the Prologue with the assertion that one of his primary intents in creating the Fables was exploring the nature of good communication, in terms of both the content of the stories and the way in which they were told.

The fables themselves are collected under four headings, each of which is introduced with a brief commentary from the author that highlights one of his concerns about communication. The first part of the collection is sub-titled "The Failure of Syntax", and begins with commentary by the author suggesting that good communication is less an intellectual process than an emotional one. The six stories gathered under that heading each explore situations in which poor communication results in misunderstanding. The second part of the collection is headed "The Demons of Resistance", and begins with the author commenting on the various aspects of an individual's psyche that prevent that individual from realizing effective communication. Five of the six stories here dramatize ways in which individuals don't pay attention to efforts being made to communicate with them. The sixth, "The Curse", dramatizes a conversation between The Creator and Satan in which the latter develops a means by which effective communication can be short circuited.

The narrative then interjects an interlude, in which three famous literary characters, Faust, Oedipus, and Cassandra debate the relationship between knowledge and resistance to good, effective, emotion-based communication.

The third sub-group of fables is collected under the heading of "Bonds and Binds," with the author suggesting in his introduction that the more open-minded someone is, the more likely it is that their relationships with other individuals and with the world will be relatively flexible and enriching. The six stories here are anchored in experiences of individual struggle against the domination, either actual or perceived, of others. Finally, there is the sub-section entitled "Reptilian Regressions," with the author leading off with a discussion of how important it is to not take life and/or communication without a sense of humor, the six stories under this heading all dramatizing situations in which circumstances and events, the give and take and lessons of life, are all taken too seriously.

The collection concludes with an epilogue in which the characters complain to each other about how they've been manipulated and mishandled by the author. The characters also find echoes of their own experiences in the stories of the others. Finally, the author has a brief dialogue with Satan, arguing the point that the meaning of the stories is not to be found in either the events or the characters but in the reader's interpretations.

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