Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 668
Tim Farnsworth is the protagonist of The Unnamed; his wife, Jane, is the second most important character. As Stephen King said in his review, their love story is what makes the book “shine.”
At the beginning of the novel, Tim is in his late forties or early fifties, and he is a successful law partner, almost a workaholic. He is tall, of normal weight, and has all his fingers and toes. He has a shrewd, logical mind and has only been plagued by the walking disease twice before in his life. His father died of cancer when he was young, and twenty years later his mother was killed in an accident. Jane is in her forties, slender, and “still beautiful.” She was a housewife while Becka was little and then began selling real estate during a period when Tim’s disease was in remission. In the beginning of The Unnamed, she works full time and is hesitant to quit. Both of Jane’s parents have also passed away, and neither she nor Tim has any siblings. They mostly struggle with Tim’s disease alone, but together.
As Ferris develops these two major characters and their relationship, he reveals the complexities of love and marriage. Jane’s beloved husband starts falling apart: physically, mentally, and emotionally. The disease plagues not only Tim but also his and Jane’s love, and his illness puts their marriage to the ultimate test. However, Tim’s walking is not the only source of the Farnsworths’ marital contention. While Tim is still a partner in the firm, Jane accuses him of being obsessed with his work at the expense of his family. Conversely, she states that he and Becka are her life.
Jane makes many sacrifices for Tim: she leaves work early to pick him up after a walk concludes, she comes to his rescue in the middle of the night, and she has travelled with him to consult doctors all over North America and Europe. But during the second recurrence of Tim’s walking disease, Jane doubts if she can go through it all again. Even though part of her resents the fact that she must bear her husband’s burden with him, Jane acknowledges that “a failing body is no grounds for divorce.” She has fantasies of being with other men and leading a normal life, but she does not act on them because she loves her husband too much. Instead of cheating on Tim, she drinks. Even the cab driver who often picks her up from bars asks, “Do you think this is helping him?” Jane replies, “It’s helping me,” but she does not truly believe that. She seeks help, gets sober, fights temptation, and does not relapse.
After Tim’s disease returns the last time and never goes into remission again, he urges Jane to remarry. After all, Tim has been traversing the country on foot for years by this point, and he does not plan to return home. A man named Michael wants to marry Jane; she considers marrying him but cannot go through with it.
When Jane is stricken with cancer, Tim makes returning to her his life’s final mission, as if his love for Jane is the true meaning of his life. The fact that Tim abandons Jane again after her health improves does not imply that their love was meaningless or untrue. Tim simply must keep moving forward. During his reunion with Jane in New York, Tim’s walks are as frequent as ever, and he exhausts himself terribly by always going where his walks take him and then walking back to Jane after the disease-driven walks finish. He decides that this is no way to live after Jane teaches him how to be more observant and truly see the world. He leaves Jane and continues on without doubling back. Tim’s endless walking may represent humanity’s incessant search for meaning. This search does not necessarily end after one has found true love.
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