The Accidental Tourist

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At times The Accidental Tourist presents its self as a gentle comedy. This is shown by the characters humour: the ineffectual Macon and the Brash Muriel, Edward the Neurotic dog, the eccentric Leary's and Julian the playboy courting Rose the old fashioned romantic. There is the amusement value of situations like Macon's method of washing clothes, the impenetrable ‘vaccination', and the disastrous thanks giving turkey. Anne Tyler sees the joke in the human behaviour, and presents it in a way that allows the audience to become engaged and laugh at the characters. But there is more to the novel than just jokes. Under the surface, it is an often sad book. Most of the characters seem lost, searching for something that eludes them- wether the memories of happiness or yearning to belong.

In the accidental tourist Anne Tyler depicts the views each character has on the world. In the sharpest focus throughout the novel is Macon's view, based on the need for control, the fear of change, distrust of others. In his view the world is worse than alien, it is dangerous. His destabilising childhood experiences, his vocation, the trauma of Ethan's death all conspire to justify his fight from the world. As Sarah put so poignantly, when she confesses to the view that ‘people are basically evil', what makes him intolerable is that he always believed that anyway.

Sarah a one time optimist turned cynic by the brutal murder of her only child has crossed over form the company of those who love life to those who fear it. Perhaps her vision, so sadly tainted by experience, touches us even more than Macon's. Unlike him, she is a character who never makes us laugh. There are no humorous obsessions, no irritating habits to distance us from her sad and all too recognisable loss of faith. We are directed to Muriel's world view by the logic of the story. Macon and Sarah's views cannot help them. Macon descends into something close to a breakdown before being rescued by Muriel. Sarah seems to have scaped by getting away, but at the end of the novel she is a pale shadow of a women, fearful, clinging to a memory of her husband, a hollow person. As Macon finds himself senses when he listens to Sarah's perfect gramma, after listening to Muriel's broken English.

The Leary's are no better, behind all the crazy habits, the alphabetical tins and the indecipherable vacation game, lies Tyler's sly argument that these people have some how missed out.

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