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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture - Part 1, Chapters 1, 2 and 3 Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 40 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Generation X.
This section contains 965 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Part 1, Chapters 1, 2 and 3 Summary

"The Sun is Your Enemy"

As he watches the sunrise with his friends Claire and Dag, narrator Andy comments on his memories of traveling to a small town to watch a total eclipse of the sun (see "Quotes," p. 3-4). Employing his idiosyncratic vocabulary (see "Style - Language and Meaning"), he then describes the difficulties that brought the acerbic Claire and self-absorbed Dag to his home that night. As the sun rises, Dag demands that the three friends comment on what the sunrise makes them think about. In narration, Andy describes how Claire refers at detailed length to the sun ruining the life of a hard-working Russian farmer, and Dag refers at equally detailed length about the sun giving cancer to a beautiful Australian surfer. Andy then portrays himself as saying one thing (referring to the sun as drying up a lake) but thinking another (images of fertility). Claire comments that it's not healthy to live life in a succession of small, sunrise-like moments, suggesting they all have to take responsibility for making their lives stories. In narration, Andy comments that they all knew that was why they left their lives and came to California - "to tell stories and to make our own lives worthwhile in the process."

"Our Parents Had More"

Andy narrates the beginnings of a picnic trip he takes with Dag and Claire, describing how he and his friends "live small lives on the periphery," but that since they moved to "the desert" things are much better.

"Quit Recycling the Past"

Andy describes the rules of storytelling he shares with his friends - no interruption and no criticism, the same as the rules for Alcoholics Anonymous (which he says he's attended, describing his perception that meetings rely on those attending dredging up the deepest, most painful secrets of their pasts). He says the rules are necessary because none of the friends is comfortable about revealing their pasts, commenting on Dag's belief that everyone, including them, has a deep secret they cannot, or will not, share. He then continues his narration of the picnic, describing how he and his friends settle in an abandoned and run-down subdivision of Palm Springs.

Part 1, Chapters 1, 2 and 3 Analysis

This section introduces several of the book's key elements - its central characters and their relationships, its narrative style (short chapters, intelligent use of analytical language), its central images (in particular, the sun and light - see "Objects/Places"), and its thematic focus on stories and storytelling (see "Themes - Storytelling"). All these are developed, in various ways, throughout the novel, and play key roles in defining it as a complex, multi-faceted examination of a particular generation's particular reaction to being alive at a particular point in history (see "Style - Setting" and "Point of View").

Another key element in the overall impact and effect of the novel is its chapter headings, which function in several ways - to illuminate the action of the chapter, to comment ironically on the experiences of the characters, or to make philosophically pointed comments on the situations in which the action plays out and/or the characters find themselves. For example, the title of Chapter 1 refers, in a fairly straightforward fashion, to the negative stories about the sun the friends speak aloud, but is also an ironic comment on how Andy, in his thoughts, experiences the sun as a source of fertility and life. This double edged relationship to the sun and its light continues throughout the novel. Meanwhile, the title of Chapter 2 is an ironic comment on why Andy and his friends perceive their place in the world, specifically their living "on the periphery" - as being, in general, less materialistic than their parents. This makes the title a manifestation of one of the novel's key themes, the relationship between materialism and self-expression (see "Themes"). Finally, the title of the third chapter is not only a comment on how the friends tell stories and on Andy's passing reference to Alcoholics Anonymous (see below), it's also a commentary on the situations of the characters as a whole. In various ways, they spend their lives recycling the past in an effort to understand themselves, let the past go and move into the future—or both. For further consideration of the value of the chapter headings see "Topics for Discussion - Consider the titles ..."

As previously mentioned, Andy's reference to Alcoholics Anonymous is noteworthy for its relationship to the chapter's title, but it is also noteworthy for what it tells us about Andy - that he did, at one point, define himself as an alcoholic. This is the only point in the book at which this aspect of his life/personality is mentioned, and it is worth questioning why. Is it part of the past he is trying not to recycle? Because it's only mentioned here, is it one part of his past that he has actually managed to move away from (as opposed to his relationship with his parents, which takes him the whole novel to transcend)? Or is he still an active alcoholic, having quit AA because of his evident distaste for the way the organization works? It's important to note that the narrative never defines Andy one way or another - as a recovering alcoholic or as an active one.

Other telling and/or illuminating elements in this chapter include the friends' choice to have their picnic in a run down community on the periphery of Palm Springs (an echo of how they live their lives "on the periphery"). Also, Claire's comment on the necessity of making lives into stories is an ironic foreshadowing of the action of the novel, which is in fact the movement of the friends towards making their lives LIVES.

This section contains 965 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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