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Choosing None of the Above

Recently, I got caught up in a heated discussion over Robert Waller's The Bridges of Madison County. In retrospect, I should have stayed out of it, as there were a number of diehard fans of the book taking part in the discussion. If you read my review, you know I gave it the one star it so rightly deserved. I couldn't help myself. I had to speak the truth--"Even the jerkiest of jerks can be the Man of Your Dreams after four days." Yes, I realize that we were all arguing about the actions of people who don't exist (it's fiction, after all). And it's not a work of Great Literature, like say, The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck or The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner. As I got more and more into analyzing Francesca's motives about why she chose to stay with her boring husband instead of running off with the dashing Kinkaid, it occurred to me that her only choice is between which man's world she wants to inhabit. They are decidedly different worlds, with one thing in common. She is completely dependent on the man in both. Also, either choice means suffering. Choosing Kinkaid means she must give up her children, and in the likely event that it doesn't work out, she'd be alone struggling to find a job to support herself. Staying with her husband means she must stifle her true self and spend the rest of her life yearning for what she can never have. But at least she has a roof over her head. What if there were a third option, one where she gets to choose her own world on her own terms? I can see her, weeks after Kinkaid has left, sitting down with her husband and telling him she's not happy. She wants more than the life of a farmer's wife What happens after that? Who knows? Maybe Richard, who loves her very much, agrees to send her to college to study Italian literature. Or she starts her own business, like a book store or a translation service. I'm assuming she's still fluent in her native tongue. Maybe she realizes that Iowa is not where she wants to be. She and Richard would divorce quietly and she'd move to New York to become a writer, or a college professor, or whatever she always wanted to be. And she could look back with no regrets, knowing she gave her marriage a chance. It's even possible that she and Kinkaid would reconnect a few years later, and pick up where they left off. Or, now that she's now longer a repressed housewife and fully able to be as worldly and fascinating as she always imagined herself to be, she'd see him for the conceited jackass he always was. Okay, that's not near as romantic an ending as the one Waller wrote. But it is more satisfying knowing that Francesca can have the life she always wanted without burning any bridges (pun intended).

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