Individualism and Belonnging to the Family in Anne Tyler's novels The Accidental Tourist and Searching for Caleb

Essay by Deanne Marie HellerA+, November 1996

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Individualism and Belonging to the Family

Anne Tyler's novels The Accidental Tourist and Searching for Caleb are concerned with the family and individualism. In the Accidental Tourist each character undergoes a transformation between individualism and belonging to his family. Individualism means isolation, while family means belonging. Searching for Caleb shows how rules can govern the family. However, in Tyler's Breathing Lessons, two characters are isolated in their own way, but find a way to renew their marriage.

Macon Leary, the main character in The Accidental Tourist, goes back and forth between his family and individualism. When his wife left him after a crazed murderer killed their son, Macon was isolated in his own house with his daily routine. Physical contact with people not related to him made him draw inward like a snail (34). Therefore, he eventually moved in with his sister and brothers to be a part of the family again.

Furthermore, there is a portrait of the Leary children at the Leary household. This portrait symbolizes the security that Macon feels now that he has moved back into the unchanging past (Reisman 1980).

Then Macon met a woman, Muriel, and 'he felt content with everything exactly the way it was. He seemed to be suspended, his

life on hold.' (161) With Muriel he was isolated from his family. He is an individual who does not need family to rule his life. However, Macon finally returns to his wife and family. He returns because of his desire for attachment to his sister and brothers who live in a tight family unit (Magills 1976).

Several other characters in The Accidental Tourist move back and forth between individuality and the family. Rose Leary, Macon's sister, fell in love with Julian, Macon's boss, who wants to take Rose away from what...