Themes and Meanings
Fear of Flying is the story of a woman discovering herself. While it begins on an airplane in which her literal fear of flying is exhibited, the real point is her larger fear of flying in her own life, of defining herself and taking charge of her own selfhood. Not until the last pages, after reflecting on the events that have shaped her, after leaving her marriage for a wild jaunt across Europe with a near-stranger, does she define herself without reference to any man. She is in Bennett’s hotel room, bathing in his tub, washing off the grime of her journey, but she understands that she is who she is, regardless of what will or will not happen with her marriage.
This is also a frankly erotic novel, in which sex and sexual desire play strong roles. The author coins a phrase for the kind of wildly passionate but completely anonymous and transitory sexual coupling that could happen, for example, between two strangers on a train. This seems to her the epitome of sexual fulfillment. However, after meeting the man, Adrian, who seemed like the ultimate representation of this kind of liaison and finding him impotent, and after nearly being raped on a train and finding it not as pleasurable as her fantasy, she ultimately rethinks this concept. The theme of sex, however, expressed openly and graphically, runs throughout the story.