A Portrait of Modern Life in Carnal Knowledge

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A Portrait of Modern Life in Carnal Knowledge

T. C. Boyle's "Carnal Knowledge" is a very funny, and at the same time truthful portrayal of some of the things which are going on in the world today. His description of the narrator and the way he thinks, as well as his portrayal of Alena Jorgensen, leaves the reader wondering if they have ever believed so strongly in something or acted the same way to help reach their goal. What makes this story so unique and is that takes place in our world, in a world were some people are "fond of Kentucky Fried Chicken or Chicken McNuggets" (245) and others "don't eat meat or fish or milk or cheese or eggs, and they didn't wear wool or leather or fur" (248). T. C. Boyle uses his sarcastic, yet at the same time believable, style to make the reader feel as if he was in the main character's shoes. The author guides the reader through the different stages of the character's evolution and shows how different aspects of society influence his thinking. In the end, the character concludes, just as I have, that no matter what people say "it's only meat" (257).

The story begins with the narrator being a man in his mid-thirties, with a stable job, and a normal life. The only thing missing in his life seems to be a female companion. He wants to find somebody he likes, understands and has something in common with, and he is sick of making the "acquaintance of a divorced computer programmer in her mid thirties with three kids and bad breath" (246) and her like.

Thus when he meets Alena Jorgensen he becomes bewitched and begins to try to impress her, and establish common interests. He becomes almost totally submissive as their relationship grows and unconsciously begins to do things he never thought of or cared about doing before. T. C. Boyle shows this progression in the narrator's character by describing the character's changing behavior and aspirations. Thus he shows how a normal man with "twentieth century urban American sensibility" (Utley) becomes a radical activist for animal rights. "Something was happening to me I could feel it in the way the boards shifted under me, feel it with each beat of the surf and I was ready to go along with it." (249).

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