BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
CHANGE AND TRANSFORMATION IN MACON LEARY
The Beanery Online Literary Magazine welcomes new youth writer, Ashley, as a contributor.
Transformation yields both positive and negative effects. Often times, transformation comes from those who are closest, and the changes mold actions and thoughts.
Ultimately, there are two types of people: those who help others in becoming a better person, and those who hold people back with no chance for self-growth. In the novel The Accidental Tourist, Macon decided, “. . . Who you are when you’re with someone may matter more than whether you love her.”1 Macon experienced contrasting detrimental relationships with his wife, Sarah, and his romantic interest, Muriel, which transformed his character and his overall outlook on life.
Macon’s relationship with Sarah was sparked when the two were seventeen years old. Macon and Sarah met at a high school dance, and ever since then Macon had been frozen into the same person he was when he first met her. Sarah was the beautiful girl all the guys wanted to date, so Macon decided that he would not even bother going after her. Sarah was the type of person who developed crushes on the people that did not fawn over her. When the two started dating, Macon felt as though he needed to constantly “present this passive front” in order to keep Sarah’s adoration and love for him.1 Macon was, therefore, forced out of his element and stuck in a personality that was not his own. The impassiveness stuck with him into his adulthood. Their son, Ethan, bridged the ever-widening gap between them. Everything was fine, until tragedy struck.
When Ethan Leary was murdered at a Burger Bonanza at the young age of 12, Macon and Sarah were heartbroken. Both Macon and Sarah dealt with the loss in their own unique ways. In regards to Macon’s grieving process over Ethan, Sarah said,
“You emptied his closet and his bureau as if you couldn’t be rid of him soon enough. You kept offering people his junk in the basement . . . and you couldn’t understand why they didn’t accept them. ‘I hate to see stuff there useless,’ you said. Macon, I know you loved him but I can’t help thinking you didn’t love him as much as I did, you’re not so torn apart by his going. I know you mourned him but there’s something so what-do-you-call so muffled about the way you experience things, I mean love or grief or anything; it’s like you’re trying to slip through life unchanged. Don’t you see why I had to get out?”1
Sarah is the type of person who feels with her heart and is not afraid to show her emotions. She is so used to her own openness that she cannot understand that everyone deals with situations in their own unique way. Macon baffles her. Macon feels as though life keeps going on and he would rather keep moving forward than to actually take the time to stop and reflect on his feelings. His way of coping with the death of his son is by keeping his mind off of the issue. Macon works to accomplish this by keeping himself busy with the task of giving away Ethan’s things to neighbors, because he does not want reminders breaking his heart on a daily basis, and also it gave him a task that would keep him constantly busy. Sarah views this as disrespect and therefore cannot stand to stay married to someone she views as so unfeeling. According to Voelker’s book, Art and the Accidental in Anne Tyler,
“Sarah … suspects that the random murder of their son made no alteration in Macon’s soul, that Macon’s view of the world was so dark that somehow he had already assimilated such a possibility. It is his apparent calm that drives her away.”
After so many years, Sarah naturally thought that Macon was truly unfeeling; little did she know she was the person who molded him into the man he was, whom suppressed his innermost feelings.
Macon was stuck at a standstill in his life until he meant the eccentric Muriel Pritchett. Unlike Sarah, Muriel did not need someone to support her emotionally. Muriel just wanted someone to love and to serve as a companion to her and her little boy, Alexander. Muriel provided purpose to Macon’s life and gave him a new outlook.
“In spite of Muriel’s difference from Macon in age, class, and outlook on life, once Macon has admitted to her his pain over Ethan’s death, he comes to realize, that she too, has been hurt in her life, that he is not the only person ever to feel pain.”2
Muriel, in a sense, broke down the walls Macon was trapped in and freed him to be himself. In his relationship with her, Macon was free to stray away from the persona he was locked in during his relationship with Sarah.
“When Macon is with Muriel he is not detached and cold; he gradually comes to see other people in the world not as faceless mobs of people but as individuals doing the best they can to get through life”2
Macon’s eyes were opened up by Muriel to see that everyone is just trying to deal with life in the ways in which they know how. Muriel taught Macon that the people he sees as unconventional are just people who know of no other way to carry on. Sarah even pointed out that Muriel and Macon would not look as though they matched as a couple because of their contrast in personalities, age, class, and overall appearance. Macon ignored this thought because his mind was open to understand the differences in others.
Macon was ultimately forced to make a difficult choice. He could either choose his long withstanding love with Sarah, or his relationship with Muriel, that made him a better person when he was with her. Macon was perplexed if he could even take a giant leap of faith with Muriel. He pondered,
“. . . he had not taken steps very often in his life . . . all seemed to have simply befallen him. He couldn’t think of a single major act he had managed of his own accord. Was it too late to begin? Was there anyway he could learn to do things differently.”1
While Macon wanted to be with Muriel, he did not have the experience of how to make things happen for himself. He was used to just having things fall into place, but Muriel’s strong stubborn character wanted Macon to ultimately make the choice. Muriel went out of her way in her persisting of their relationship, even to the point of following him to Paris, but Muriel wanted reassurance that Macon could truly be happy with her. According to Modern American Women Writers, “He (Macon) realized that no matter how frightening an unscripted, uncontrolled life may be, it is the only kind of life available.” Muriel’s act of spontaneously forcing herself on Macon as his companion while in Paris made him realize how hard Muriel was willing to fight to be with him. Also, Muriel’s spontaneity showed Macon that life could be a constantly fun-filled adventure. The choice between Sarah and Muriel was thus made harder by the Paris trip.
Either way, Macon did not want to hurt anyone. He knew that no matter which decision he made, someone would be hurt, and so his choice must be completely accurate in regards to his feelings. In debate of the issue, he started to consider that while Sarah was his first and long-withstanding love, they have come to a point where they just do not bring out the best in each other. While it may be too soon to tell whether or not he actually is in love with Muriel, Macon knows that she brings out the best in him and encourages him to be the best man he can be. The Accidental Tourist highlights this idea in saying,
“…he began to believe that people could in fact be used up -could use each other up, could be of no further help to each other and maybe even do harm to each other. He began to think that who you are when you’re with somebody may matter more than whether you love her.”1
In the end, Macon decided Muriel was the woman for him, so in an essence, he chose to be with the person who made him a better person.
1. The Accidental Tourist by Tyler
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