Themes and Meanings
The centrality of sibling relationships, a common theme in many of Tyler’s novels, is the backdrop against which the events of The Accidental Tourist occur. It is also the litmus against which Tyler measures the degree of change occurring in her characters. In The Accidental Tourist, Tyler explores the effects people have on one another and the changes wrought by their interactions.
Julian, the quintessential preppy playboy, is enthralled by the homey atmosphere in the Leary house. He abandons his single life for a pedantic upper-middle-class world. Driven by his desire, Julian even manages to learn Vaccination, the only spouse to do so. For her part, Rose steps out of the groove in which she appears firmly entrenched and goes sailing on the Chesapeake.
When Sarah first leaves Macon, his grief over Ethan’s death and his own sudden bachelorhood nearly overwhelm him. When he moves into the working-class neighborhood in which Muriel rents a broken-down row house, he leaves behind a persona that is at least partially an artificial construct formed during his courtship of Sarah. Muriel’s flamboyance, her inner strength, and her joie de vivre in the face of nearly overwhelming hardship allow Macon at once to heal and to become, as Muriel calls him, soft-hearted. The original accidental tourist, Macon even finds himself extolling the virtues of San Francisco to a weary native Baltimorean who is a devotee of Macon’s...
(The entire section is 499 words.)