Jonathan Franzen – Freedom



After reading this book I reflected about it for a good 45 minutes. I mean this novel will stick with me for a long time but it is a multi layered piece of work that is difficult to describe due to it’s complex threadlines.

The Plot

The book is about a family disintegrating after 9/11. The family in question are the Berglunds. The father, Walter is a lawyer turned environmentalist, the mother, Patty, a high school jock and all around nice person, Joey, the slightly wayward son and Jessica the good daughter. All live together in a calm suburb.

However 9/11 happens and it seems that all the shiny outwear is rubbed down to reveal a nasty core of deceit, treachery, bust ups and screw ups. All the Berglunds experience change and it is up to them to cope – be it resolving a high school crush, preserving The Cerulean Warbler or conducting a shady business deal. The situations the Berglunds are placed in are dilemmas which change their destinies.

If I do look into it deeper I guess The Berglunds are a representation of post 9/11 America: a strong country affected by a blow which causes it to fall apart and attempt to pull it back together the best it can? or is it a country that already had problems which finally surfaced due to a shake up? who knows?

The topic of Freedom

As the title suggests the theme of Freedom plays a central role. Who is free though? The individual Berglunds? The Cerulean Warbler? Patty and Walters acquaintances? The American population? Franzen poses tons of questions and this is what makes Freedom such an enjoyable read. We readers are expected to pick answers and form our own conclusions – Franzen drops hints, both subtle and not, about the notion of freedom but it’s up to us to decide who is really free.

The Overall theme.

Freedom is the central theme but Franzen’s main message is simply: ‘Love is all’ All the characters in this book are douchebags but what saves them from being total assholes is how love motivates them in the right way. Trust me Franzen is not being moralistic but whenever true love makes an appearance things happen the way they should and maybe the final message is that love is what can set one free. Again who knows? All I can say is that via Freedom Franzen has found out how to approach the great American Dream. 


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