The Republic of Love

by Carol Shields

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In The Republic of Love, how do the characters' respective parents influence their approach to relationships and love?

The characters' respective parents influence their approach to relationships and love in a number of ways. Fay's parents have been in a stable marriage for forty years, and she naturally wants the same thing for herself. As for Tom, he grew up with a sickly mother and an absent father. His resulting need for parental affection is probably what has led him to commit to relationships and marry too easily.

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Both Fay and Tom are profoundly influenced in their attitude to relationships, albeit in different ways, by their parents. Fay grew up in a happy home with a mom and dad who'd been blissfully married for decades. Peggy and Richard are pretty much a model couple, and Fay really couldn't ask for better parents. At the same time, however, this inadvertently puts a bit of pressure on her to have a similarly strong relationship of her own.

As she's striving to emulate her parents's happiness Fay is extremely reluctant to commit. None of the men she's been dating seem to fit the bill as far as future husband material is concerned. Then again, Fay is acutely aware of time marching on; she's 35, and doesn't much look forward to the prospect of being the kind of older, unmarried woman who receives boxes of bath powder at Christmas. Caught between wanting to get married but not wanting to commit too quickly, Fay finds herself in a bit of a quandary.

Tom also has a problematic relationship with marriage due to his background. Unlike Fay, however, his parents aren't happily married. He was born to a sickly mother, a woman ravaged by flu, pneumonia, and depression. His father was notable by his absence. The lack of a stable, loving family life growing up has made Tom somewhat emotionally needy. He falls in love too quickly, commits himself too deeply to relationships, and gets married when he really ought not to. In fact, Tom has already been married and divorced three times and he's still only forty.

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