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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture - Study Guide Part 2, Chapters 16, 17 and 18 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.
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Part 2, Chapters 16, 17 and 18 Summary

"Purchased Experiences Don't Count"

Andy describes Claire's best friend Elvissa, and narrates what happens when Claire and Elvissa finish a conversation and join Andy, Tobias and Dag by the side of the pool. Tobias, unable to get attention from either of the guys or from Claire, talks with Elvissa, who while doing her nails in "Honolulu Choo-Choo pink nail polish," comments that Tobias might not be as yuppie-ish as she thought. As proof, she demands that he tell her what experience in his life would be his last, best memory, adding that it can't be something bought, only lived. Tobias is stumped, as are Andy and Dag. Claire, however, comes up with an answer - snow.

"Remember Earth Clearly"

One by one, the friends describe their most remembered experiences. Claire narrates her first experience of snow (see "Quotes," p. 94, #1). Dag recalls making a mistake while filling the family car (see "Quotes," p. 94 #2), how his father didn't get angry but instead talked of how gasoline smelt like "the future", and how he closed his eyes and saw the orange glow of the sun through his eyelids. Andy recalls a cherished moment of family peace and intimacy (see "Quotes," p. 95). Tobias surprises them all with a happy, beautifully described memory of his parents (see "Quotes," p. 96). After commenting that he'll have to reconsider his opinions of Tobias, Andy describes how the friends insist Elvissa go next.

"Change Color"

Elvissa's describes a childhood (and perhaps childish) friendship with a neighbor boy named Curtis that matured into a sexual relationship which, in turn, ended when Curtis moved, but which renewed itself unexpectedly when she recently encountered him poolside at a Palm Springs hotel. She describes how his head keeps darting around as though he's keeping his eye on some kind of flying object. She tells of their subsequent happy reunion, and how Curtis eventually told her his life story - how he was injured in jungle warfare, how his buddy was killed, and how his buddy's blue eyes were plucked out by hummingbirds (which, according to Curtis, are particularly attracted to blue). Elvissa describes how she realized that Curtis' strange head movements were his efforts to watch for hummingbirds, how Curtis started (but suddenly stopped) talking about what he'd do if a hummingbird came for his eyes, and how after he drunkenly passed out, she (Elvissa) tried to pass some of her strength into his "poor, battle scarred body." After she's finished, Andy goes into his apartment to answer a telephone call, and Tobias goes to check out the color of his eyes in the rear view mirror of his car. "Right then," Andy says, he knew it was over between Tobias and Claire.

Part 2, Chapters 16, 17 and 18 Analysis

This section is an important one in the novel and in the lives of its characters. They are all essentially dared into speaking truths about themselves, truths that in the past they would have disguised (perhaps in stories of Texlahoma). At least, Dag and Claire and Andy would have disguised them - as portrayed here and throughout the book, there is the sense that Tobias probably wouldn't have even given the incident he describes a second thought, if he didn't want to get into Elvissa's pants (to put it crudely). The irony, of course, is that Elvissa, who seems at this point such an advocate of truth, turns out to be a liar (see Chapter 28). Meanwhile, the carefully detailed reference to Elvissa's nail polish is foreshadowing of its reappearance in Chapter 28, where it serves as evidence that Tobias is having sex with her behind Claire's back. Finally, Elvissa's reference to putting energy back into Curtis' scarred body can be seen as a metaphoric representation of what she's doing to the three friends - by insisting on them telling a truth, she is in effect putting energy back into them. Again, the irony is that she's a liar and a manipulator, but the irony of the irony is that Claire and Andy move further towards becoming truer, more honest people anyway.

Another noteworthy element in this section is an interesting development in the sun/light motif - specifically, its inclusion in Dag's story. Aside from the fact that this is the first, and perhaps only, time in the novel that Dag speaks directly about himself (his earlier stories of how he came to Palm Springs don't count, in that they're essentially hearsay), this is also the first and perhaps only time that for Dag, the image of the sun is a positive one. On other occasions, he connects it with destruction and suffering, but here it's connected with joy ... as it is eventually for both Claire and Andy.

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