Welcome to assignment 4 of our book discussion of Freedom
by Jonathan Franzen. We're covering "The Nice Man's Anger" through "Enough Already" (pages 290–381) from our reading schedule.
The theme that jumps out at me at this point is something we rarely get to discuss in polite society—anger and rage. We learn this week that it seems the nicest man of all, Walter, is full of it. We discover Walter is seething with road rage, moral outrage and is just mad as hell after years of passively putting up with life: "Walter felt, himself, in his anger and disappointment with the world, like the gray northern woods." (page 292)
Yet there is one bright light in his life, his assistant Lalitha. She is clearly so in love with her boss that even Patty gives him permission to have the affair they seem destined to start. Yet Walter is conflicted: "He loved Patty in some wholly other way, some larger and more abstract but nevertheless essential way that was about a lifetime of responsibility; about being a good person." (page 304)
But is Walter really "good," or does he just want to be seen that way? Is Walter’s choice to put Patty's needs ahead of his own the real source of his anger? There's a theory that underneath anger is fear—so what do you think Walter is really fearful of? Many of us chose doing what we believe is right over what will make us happy, so then why does this often leave us unhappy or angry? Is there a better way?
What do you think? Share your comments below!