Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The title Heartburn represents more than simply Rachel Samstat’s constant digestive distress during a pregnancy that seems unrelenting and endless. The word also symbolizes the emotional pain that Rachel feels upon learning of her husband’s cold-blooded betrayal and his attitude of righteous indignation that she should have the nerve to resent his love affair with Thelma Rice. Nora Ephron’s novel is not simply a comic story about pregnancy, nor is it merely a cookbook: It is a novel concerning male-female relationships, truth, betrayal, guilt, self-pity, and one woman’s romance with food.

The work is an ironic look at modern married life in the 1970’s. Rachel Samstat and Mark Feldman are typical of upper-middle-class professionals who have no more control over their emotions than the average man or woman. Ephron is careful to reveal Rachel’s pain in tiny bits, like the pepper and spices added to a good sauce, while simmering the whole question of love and betrayal, men and women, over a low but steady flame of outrageous comedy.

The narrator begins with a joke, her initial reaction to her husband’s infidelity: that “the most unfair thing” about it is that she “can’t even date.” She then discusses Mark’s character and her own, their relationship, and her cooking, trying to uncover the key to his betrayal and the reason that she keeps falling for men who cheat on her and lie about it, and badly. First she...

(The entire section is 592 words.)