It’s complicated

I don’t know why Jeffrey Eugenides set The Marriage Plot in the early 1980s (except that he was himself was a 20-something at the time), but I can say in retrospect why it feels necessary: there wasn’t any Facebook.

The Marriage Plot is about Madeleine Hanna, Leonard Bankhead and Mitchell Grammaticus, all seniors at Brown when we first meet (or hear of) them. Over the course of the novel, told in part through flashbacks, Mitchell meets and falls in love with Madeleine, who meets and falls in love with Leonard, who falls in love back with Madeleine. It would be an almost simplistic love story were it not for the narrative foil of Leonard, who in addition to being the Edward to Mitchell’s Jacob, is also bipolar. Management and treatment of the disease dominate his life, and in turn his relationship with Madeleine. 

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