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Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture - Study Guide Part 3, Chapters 24, 25, 26 and 27 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 3, Chapters 24, 25, 26 and 27 Summary

"Define Normal"

Andy begins the narration of his trip home for Christmas with brief, vivid sketches of his variously dysfunctional siblings, and commenting that none of them (except Tyler) will be home for Christmas. He describes how his mother picks him up at the airport, and how she reveals she's given up "caring what any of you do with your lives. I hope you don't mind, but it's made my life THAT MUCH easier." When they arrive at the house, Tyler rushes out and greets Andy with "Welcome to the house that time forgot!"

"MTV Not Bullets"

Andy begins his narrative of Christmas Eve with a description of his mysterious shopping trip to buy dozens of different sorts of candles (mysterious because he tells neither the reader nor Tyler, who accompanies him, what he's buying them for). Andy then describes how his father (newly healthy as the result of a recent heart attack) yells at the television - specifically, at a group of protesting young people whom he shouts should get jobs. Later, after a tense dinner, Tyler goes out, leaving Andy with his parents. As he describes his lonely father filling the family's stockings at the fireplace, Andy describes a phone call from Dag (in which Dag reveals that the car fire has made the news, and in which they both come to believe they might be in trouble). Andy also describes his beliefs about his former friends (see "Quotes," p. 143), his belief that it was a mistake to come home for Christmas (because he's "too old"), and his realization that while his hopes for new insight into and/or affection from his parents are gone, he's "left with two nice people ... more than most people get." He adds, however, that "it's time to move on."

"Trans Form"

On Christmas Day, Andy sets up all his candles in the living room and lights them, telling his family to wait a few minutes before coming downstairs. When they do, they're all dazzled by the beauty of the light. It made, Andy writes, "the eyes of my family burn, if only momentarily, with the possibilities of existence in our time." He then adds that things got back to normal, and Andy narrates his realization that his and all his family's feelings "are transpiring in a vacuum," a vacuum caused by their being middle class (see "Quotes," p. 147).

"Welcome Home from Vietnam, Son"

Andy describes how, on his way to the airport at the conclusion of his visit, he visits Portland's Vietnam War memorial (see "Objects / Places - The Vietnam War"). Before they get there, Tyler (who is driving) speaks with unexpected passion of how concerned he is for Andy's well being, and his (Tyler's) sense of aimlessness and hopelessness. Taken by surprise, Andy then narrates his walk through the memorial, explaining to the back-to-normal Tyler why visiting the memorial is important (see "Quotes," p. 151).

Part 3, Chapters 24, 25, 26 and 27 Analysis

This section marks the book's climax, the emotional and spiritual turning point for its central character (Andy). It's important to note that in this case, the climax is not Andy's actual transformation (that comes in Chapters 30 and 31) but the CHOICE that TRIGGERS that transformation. In other words, the choice is the turning point, the point at which both emotion and insight are at their highest and most affecting.

There are several key elements here. The first is the revelation that, while he's been struggling to let go of his parents' influence in his life, his parents (or at least his mother) has already let go of HIM. The second, and not unrelated, point is that his father is also moving into a new future, living a healthy life after the shock of a heart attack. Both these points can be seen as important steps along Andy's journey towards independence from his past, and therefore towards self-hood. Another point on that journey manifesting in this section is Andy's realization that he's "too old," the implication being that he's not only too old for Christmas at home but too old to remain self-defined by his parents life. Yet another point is the reappearance of the "light" motif or imagery, in this case the affirming blaze of illumination that erupts into the lives of Andy and his family. It's important to note that in this case, "illumination" refers to both the physical illumination of the candles and, in Andy's case, the psycho-spiritual-emotional illumination that it's coming time for him to transform into a truer, more self-affirming human being.

Still another point is the very pointed reference to being middle-class, the first time this particular circumstance of Andy's existence is specifically referenced. The middle class (in America at least) is generally defined as the steadily employed, steadily working, rather materialistic, not-rich-but-not-poor core of the population. Unable to be as ostentatiously wealthy as the very rich, unwilling to be as ostentatiously disadvantaged as the very poor, the middle class is generally perceived as wanting/having/accumulating possessions in order to demonstrate simply that they can - that they have at least some money and means, and therefore some degree of success. They are, in other words, living the so-called American Dream. However, as Andy implies, the middle class is (in socio-political terms) also taken for granted, dismissed as having no desires or interests other than being able to exhibit and maintain that success - in short, that they're superficial. It's this superficiality, which is equal parts stereotype and archetype, that Andy in this chapter realizes is the true source of his personal ambivalence about his life, and what he also realizes he must transcend if he is to become a fully self-realized human being.

Finally, there is the reference to the Vietnam War (see "Objects/Places"), which in many ways comes as a complete and utter surprise. To this point Andy has come across as entirely self-absorbed - well meaning, but self-absorbed. His visit to the memorial (which, as written, has all the earmarks of a ritual) indicates, however, that there is a sensibility and/or an awareness in him that transcends mere narcissism. In other words, he has an awareness of himself in the bigger picture of his community, his country, the world, and history - an important component of the personal integrity and search for meaning that leads him to his climactic decision to move on into a new phase of his life.

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