A Girl like Phyl Themes

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The Ordinary and the Extraordinary

Highsmith is known for her ability to juxtapose the ordinary with the extraordinary as she chronicles the uneventful lives of her seemingly average characters. Often the extraordinary elements that suddenly appear in those lives suggest a shocking unpredictability as well as a darkness and the danger of violence just beneath the surface. On the surface Jeff appears to be an ordinary business man arriving in Paris to complete a deal for his company. That morning he had said goodbye to his wife and teenaged son, assuming that he would return to them in three days. An extraordinary event occurs, however, that shakes up his seemingly normal world.

Only after he meets Elaine are readers given his vision of Phyl, her mother, who has been a consuming obsession for Jeff and will eventually destroy him when it is shattered. Jeff realizes that “if he...

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This section contains 390 words
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Buy the A Girl like Phyl Study Guide
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