The events of his life might make Frank lonely, sad, and angry, much like Walter and Herb, but unlike them, he has adjusted to pain and regret, becoming surprisingly contented. His major conflict is resisting the state he calls dreaminess, meaning giving in to self-pity and despair, much as he does immediately following Ralph’s death. The constantly self-analytical Frank posits a simple yet unsentimental optimism in numerous ways throughout the novel: “things sometimes happen for the best. Thinking that way has given me a chance for an interesting if not particularly simple adulthood.” He claims to be willing to say “yes” to almost anything life presents. One of the problems with their marriage is X’s resentment of his optimism.
Although he claims not to be searching for anything, Frank clearly longs for the stability of a traditional family. His father died when he was fourteen, and his mother treated him like a nephew. He loves his house in Haddam because it symbolizes the type of family life he seeks, even if only he and Bosobolo reside in it. Owning such a house without actually needing it provides an unusual comfort. He fantasizes about becoming part of the Arcenault family, who strike him as better than he expected. He allows himself to become addicted to mail-order catalogs, attracted not only by the products but also by “those ordinary good American faces pictured there.”
Frank refuses to see people as either heroes or villains, even when he is writing about athletes. He writes an article about Haddam for a local magazine, saying that he works best if he lives in a “neutral” place, and he seems neutral about life, though not disinterested or indifferent. He attempts to offset the perception of himself as passive by claiming that he is “always vitally interested in life’s mysteries, which are never in too great a supply.” He is open to such mysteries without seeking them out, saying that “it may simply be that at...
(The entire section is 806 words.)