Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture Themes

This Study Guide consists of approximately 42 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Generation X.
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Throughout the novel (ironically enough, as the reader is being told a story), the characters tell stories of their own. In his narration, Andy suggests that the (hobby? game?) of telling made-up stories is a result/manifestation of the desire he shares with Claire and Dag to avoid revealing themselves to each other and perhaps even to themselves (see Chapter 3). There is significant irony in this suggestion, in that the reader can easily see the thinly disguised truth behind the various stories. That is to say, Andy's story of Edward (Chapter 7), Dag's story of Otis (Chapter 12) and Claire's story of Linda (Chapter 22) can, as discussed in the analysis of those chapters, easily be seen as revealing more about the teller of the story than the teller perhaps realizes; or maybe he or she DOES realize what they're revealing, and is fully aware that telling stories is the only way s/he feels safe revealing uncomfortable self truths. For further consideration of it, see "Topics for Discussion - How aware do you think ..."

Meanwhile, it's important to note that Claire (in the Chapter 28 story of her breakup with Tobias) and Andy (in the Chapter 30 story of his dream about the pelican and the fish) both ultimately speak of themselves AS themselves. In other words, they tell truths, not stories. It's also interesting to note that in terms of the development of his character, Dag never does - the last story he tells (about what happened the night of the torching of the car) is still a disguised truth (to be polite) or an outright lie (to be blunt). The point is not made to suggest that the stories told by the other characters throughout the book are ALSO lies (although the fact that Elvissa, who seems in her story of Curtis in Chapter 18 to be a fierce advocate of the truth, turns out to be a liar, seems to suggest that they at least might be). Rather, the point is made to suggest that while Claire and Andy seem, on some level and to some degree, to be growing into their future by speaking of themselves rather than invented characters, Dag (as Andy suggests in Chapter 15) is still afraid of his. In other words, storytelling throughout the novel is simultaneously a hiding from the truth, an unconscious revealing of that truth, and a sign of immaturity. This ultimately makes Andy's statement about storytelling at the end of Chapter 1 a complex, perhaps paradoxical, certainly somewhat contradictory, statement of self semi-awareness.

Materialism vs. Self-Expression

Throughout the novel, Andy, Dag and Claire claim that the lives they're striving to live are representative of their desire to rebel against the socio-cultural tradition of materialism that they see as having ruined the lives of their parents and as making superficial the lives of other people their age. In other words, they seem determined to both discover and express who they are as people, as individuals, rather than as target markets (to use a phrase Dag derisively employs). In taking this position, they are simultaneously embodying and rejecting the so-called "American Dream" - embodying the ideal (of individuality, independence and freedom), but rejecting what they believe the ideal has become (materialism, greed, and self-aggrandizement).

In this context, it's possible to see a link between this theme and the thematic exploration of the value/purpose of storytelling. In the same way as materialism (for the larger community) has become a corruption of a societal ideal, storytelling (for the smaller community of the three central characters) seems to have become a corruption of the ideal of personal truth. It's possible, therefore, to see the process of truth-telling maturation experienced by at least two of the central characters as simultaneously echoing and reinforcing their process of materialism-rejecting maturation, and vice versa. In other words, by eventually making themselves accountable to and for themselves, as truth tellers and non-materialists, Andy and Claire discover and embody the value of true, multi-leveled self-expression. Dag, as discussed in "Storytelling" above, doesn't quite get there - he's still ultimately unable to face and/or reveal truths about himself without hiding behind story (unless the reader counts his sudden, albeit vividly foreshadowed, kissing of Andy in Chapter 28).

The Value of Friendship

It could easily be argued, and with some justification, that the three central characters take refuge in their friendships with each other, hiding within their small circle of community rather than facing the struggles, joys, potential for fulfillment and almost certain emergence of pain inherent in a romantic relationship with a lover/partner. The novel seems to suggest, in fact, that there is more reward in friendship than there is in couple-hood, more unconditional love, support and trust. This idea is reinforced by the novel's clear view of coupled relationships as ultimately toxic, obsessive, and corrupt - certainly, the Claire/Tobias and Tobias/Elvissa couplings fall into that category. It's reinforced further by the way the married couples (the MacArthurs, Andy's parents, Claire's parents,) all, to varying degrees, end up in a place of significant loss of both self and individual integrity as the direct result of their respective marriages.

The main evidence for the novel's advocacy of friendships over spousal relationships is the way friendship is portrayed as a catalyst for the eventual emergence and/or revelation of personal truth. Yes, the three central characters initially reinforce each other's resistance to connection and/or revelation of personal truth by encouraging each other to tell stories and therefore camouflage their truths. By the end of the narrative, the novel seems to be suggesting that it is their unconditional acceptance of one another, flaws and all, their mutual support and trust that enables them (at least Andy and Claire) to get past that resistance and move into an experience of freedom and joyous self definition.

The transformation from self-denial to self-acceptance is dramatized by the way Claire, through letting herself be vulnerable with Andy, doesn't hide her truth (the breakup with Tobias) behind a story. It's also dramatized by Andy's climactic decision to speak of his dream of death as his, rather than as (for example) Edward's. Finally, and most vividly, Andy's friend-aided transformation into self-hood is symbolized, in the novel's final moments, by events which, it is important to note, take place on a physical journey to join his friends and what they all see as their true, destined, free-from-materialism, full-of-self lives. These events are centered around the appearance of the white bird soaring over the burnt field - for further consideration of this image see "Style - Structure" and "Objects/Places - The White Bird and the Black Field."

This section contains 1,107 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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