Form and Content
The War Between the Tates is told from the omniscient point of view, allowing Alison Lurie to alternate between camps in reporting from the front. Along with their private war, the Tates wage a joint campaign against the generation of the late 1960’s. As Erica and Brian face off over the marital disruption introduced by Wendy Gahaghan, they are both adjusting to a world that threatens their established values. Moreover, both have private battles with themselves that cloud their perceptions of their situations. The all-knowing narrator keeps up with all this strife in a series of well-observed and sometimes quite comic scenes that move rapidly toward the Tates’ armistice day.
Brian’s career at Corinth University has been safe, conventional, and dull. At forty-six, he yearns for more—not only more from the academy but also something more from Erica in terms of conjugal excitement, something raging and Faustian. He is always conscious of being only five feet five, and he has an unhappy sense of a stunted life.
Erica has grown up safe, too. Conservative in her social, sexual, and cultural values, she now finds her traditionalism sorely tested. She has always worshipped the children, whose boorish adolescence has her on the brink of apostasy. A shopping center is about to blot her pastoral landscape, a gut-blow from the industrial-commercial bogeyman that troubles the dreams of all liberals such as the Tates. Brian has not become the mighty scholar she had hoped he would be, leaving her as the woman behind less of a man than she had fantasized.
Wendy Gahaghan, then, can be seen as the Tates’ salvation in that she...
(The entire section is 684 words.)