For Better Or Worse

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Maggie was a beautiful and capable woman. Since she grew up in a poor and dysfunctional family, she got married very young just to get out. Several years later, with two children in tow, she divorced her husband and left. Since she didn’t have any income, the judge ruled that the two children should live with her husband. Maggie subsequently enrolled in a university. Although she’s very smart, she was more interested in finding a husband. She met Philip and started a relationship. After a while, they broke up. Maggie wanted the relationship to work–so she faked pregnancy and got Philip to marry her.

Several years later, after two real pregnancies and abortions, Philip insisted that they divorce. She tried to commit suicide but was saved by vigilant friends. Since she’s a very capable woman, she found a good job in a publishing house and earned a good income. However she didn’t want the divorce and she tortured Philip on paying alimony.

Then one day, she’s out partying with a friend, who drove the car in a reckless way. They smashed into a structure on the roadside and she died.

Marji was a beautiful, sweet, and very good tempered woman. She was an heiress, with plenty of money of her own. She’s Philip’s girlfriend after Philip separated from Maggie. She’s so afraid that she’s going to fail college that she never dared to attend classes. However Philip insisted that she took courses in NYU. She did and became one of the top students. However despite her wealth and her education, she aspired to nothing in her life except to marry Philip. However Philip got tired of her after two or three years, and dumped her. Marji also tried to commit suicide, but was saved by others who helped her vomit all the pills she had swallowed.

Poor Maggie and Poor Marji. Two women who just couldn’t see their own value other than being Philip’s partners. I really want to shout at them: wake up, wake up. You are making yourself miserable.

This is from the biography of Philip Roth, which was written by Blake Bailey. I have gone through one third of the book, but very strangely, my attention couldn’t be focused on Philip, an author I didn’t like before. (However two months ago one of his books was on sale in Audible and I bought it and really liked it.)

For this biography, my attention has been more drawn to the unfortunate women who were in Philip’s orbit. They were just one train-wreck after another. Why? Why? The book seems to say (and I believe it or probably I am too gullible) that they just couldn’t leave Philip alone even though he couldn’t make them happy. They wanted to give up their beauty, wit, jobs, income, or even life just to be with Philip even though they knew his manifold faults and his indifference to them. Why? Some may think that he’s a good catch, with all the fame and everything, but he was very difficult to live with and his philandering amounted to an astonishing degree.

I have two thirds of the book to go and I am sure I am going to find more women like them in the rest of the book. I sincerely hope that the “me too” movement has reduced the number of women like Maggie and Marji.

19 thoughts on “For Better Or Worse

  1. I don’t when this whole problem of Maggie, Marji, Phillip came about but I am assuming it’s early to mid-20th century. My guess here is that this was probably a time when a woman’s value depended on who and if she is married. The whole idea of being an “old maid” possibly scared the two.

    It reminds me of how women in Korea are pressured to get married by the age of 25 and those who remain single past that age are considered weird. It’s a sad state of affairs.

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    1. It is depressing to look at how women behave in 1960s. These are all healthy (bodily healthy at least), capable, intelligent people who should be having a normal life, but if they became involved with a wrong man, they just couldn’t extricate themselves from him psychologically. They knew he’s not right for them, and he didn’t even want them. And the whole tragedy just started from there.

      So true about Korea, Japan, and other Asian countries too. People really know how to make themselves and other people miserable. That’s what human beings are good at. Just look at my own relatives. LOL.

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  2. This is really sad. Some will go to any lengths to destroy themselves. Could it be that the want is greater than any presiding logic? This could be labeled as obsessive behavior where the object of desire is the only thing visible and it must be kept at all costs. I suppose low self-worth in these women could also be involved. The dire need to feel wanted by someone else.

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    1. Yes, this is really driving me a little crazy just listening to this book and hearing these poor women’s stories. Now the book is veering towards the next victim, an actress, who just sacrifices her life for one man after another until she doesn’t have anything to sacrifice anymore. Goodness. Just wake up. And she is a very intelligent woman with great memory and style. She could have had a great life if she keeps on working for herself. I will write another post about the rest of the book and it really drives me a little mad to watch all these women destroying themselves.

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  3. If “me too” leads to women being less invested in relationships and more emotionally independent and less clingy – that situation would be one that most men would prefer if they’re honest. In fact I suspect things have already moved in that direction since Roth’s heyday.

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    1. I mean it would lead to better relationships all round because both sexes would have a more a realistic idea of what the other sex was actually capable of providing. With that more realistic assessment they might even decide not to enter into any long-term relationship with the opposite sex!

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      1. Incidentally this is where I part company with the likes of Jane Austen (for example) as a novelist. Admittedly she does describe some bad marriages but she has also created an unrealistic ideal of a “good” marriage which is perhaps just as unrealistic as the porn that many young men consume.

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        1. Oh, that’s so true. I kind of think Jane Austen didn’t really believe the plot she designed for her readers, judging from the path she chose for herself. She only plotted that to cater to her readers’ tastes and the style of the day. Somehow I guess that she as an author probably was laughing at her own ridiculous story.

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      2. I was rather frightened at this true picture of women in 1950s and 60s. No wonder there’s a kind of “revolt” in the 60s. I mean these women really frighten me by their choices, like chasing a man no matter what, even to the point that they become mad, twisted, and suicidal. These are real life cases. These are not fiction.

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    2. Thank goodness for the change. I mean it’s long overdue. How about we all become sane and reasonable? I wonder if civilization really drives people a little insane, especially driving women insane.

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    1. So true. Once one’s head is so messed up in thinking that a woman’s highest aspiration is becoming somebody’s partner, no matter how unsuitable the chosen person is, one can go crazy.

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