The Last Thing He Wanted

by Joan Didion

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Last Thing He Wanted is a novel by Joan Didion about the life of a former journalist on the campaign trail and her new life taking care of her ailing father while also taking over his former position as a United States arms dealer, which drastically changes her life. Let's analyze some quotes from the book to highlight some of the ideas in it.

In a perfect world we might have perfect choices, in the real world we had real choices, and we made them, and we measured the losses against what might have been the gains.

This quote perfectly encapsulates the themes of the novel. In the real world, choices are not cut and dry; we have to make these decisions and hope for the best possible outcome. If we lived in a perfect world, we'd be able to make decisions that have no spiraling consequences, but we don't. This echoes the events in Elena's life, as she has to choose to leave her job behind to care for her father in the wake of her mother's death. Additionally, she has to make the decision to take over her father's arms dealing job, which has numerous consequences.

We had a real life and now we don't and just because I'm your daughter I'm supposed to like it and I don't.

This quote, another moment of internal monologue, exemplifies Elena's relationship with her father. She is angry and bitter toward him and has been for quite some time. There is a distance between them because of her father's position at work among other things. This compounds the difficulty that she experiences when she decides to leave her job and take care of him.

Chicago [screwed] up, what else is new, the traveling press secretary had shrugged. So find somebody, double up, wheels up at six sharp.

Her life as a reporter is about to come to an end, but it is this lifestyle that will make the rest of her life successful. She is a go-getter, and she takes on many mantles to ensure things get accomplished. Her work demanded a great deal from her, and when she took care of her father and eventually took over his arms dealing work, she used that tenacity to get things done successfully.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access