The young man Lee develops a debilitating crush on is NOT her math tutor, who she finds out upon graduation was in love WITH HER... but rather Cross Sugarman, who helps her when she faints Freshman...

The young man Lee develops a debilitating crush on is NOT her math tutor, who she finds out upon graduation was in love WITH HER... but rather Cross Sugarman, who helps her when she faints Freshman year, then becomes her lover -- who has no public ownership of the relationship, making her little more than a girl whose crush creates an easy booty call target for the Senior prefect -- during their final year at Ault after ignoring her mostly for the ensuing two years.
Do you think an error of this level should be corrected? Or are the larger themes more the issues?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I tend to think that Lee's error is reflective of the larger themes in the novel.  Sittenfeld's novel centers on the challenges that Lee endures in her time at Ault.  A major part of this is the world of Ault is something that Lee's background is not a part.  Lee lives in a state of liminality.  On one hand, she is not fully embraced as a part of the Ault life because of her less than privileged status.  On the other hand, she cannot fully immerse herself in her life at South Bend because they don't understand what she endures and she have become fundamentally changed in her time at Ault.  It is this lack of belonging and frustration in an incomplete notion of identity that is part of Lee's character.

Such a condition of the incomplete is relevant to her emotional choices.  Her desire to be accepted by Cross, who uses her as not much more than an "easy booty call," depicts how Lee is always going to be the outsider in a world like Ault. In a condition where she does not experience "public ownership of the relationship" and where she is used as a means to an end and not treated as an end in her own right, a major theme of the novel emerges in how the very wealthy treat everyone else.  In a move very reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, Sittenfeld's construction of Lee's situation is reflective of a larger social condition embodied in the themes of the novel.

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