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The main theme of the book is about grief. The story starts off with the losing of Macon and Sarah Leary's son and how this has led to their own relationship disintegerating. Macon's grief continues as he decides to move into a house with his siblings and is clearly still upset because of his son's death. We also note further grief towards the end of the book when Macon is faced with an ultimatum to choose between Muriel whom he now loves and his wife Sarah whom he had a son with. The grief is omnipresent as it grief for the lost love of his wife Sarah and now potentially lost love for Muriel.
Love is clearly an important theme in the story as it was love for his son that drove Macon Leary to his grief and to moving out eventually from his marital home. Also, the love between Macon and his wife Sarah disintegrated after the death of their son. However, Macon also found love in his siblings when he moved back in with them and saw how eccentric they still were. Love is also present when Macon's publisher Julian falls in love with Macon's sister, Rose. They marry and continue this theme of love in the story. The most important example of love in the story is the love that Macon grows for Muriel and her personality. It is this love which allows him to begin a relationship with her but his love for his wife also clashes with his love for Muriel as he cannot decide who to choose at the end of the story.
There is also a theme of conflict in the book as Macon's feelings for his son conflict with his love for his wife Sarah. This conflict leads to Macon and his wife separating as he cannot bear to feel one love without the other. Also, there is conflict in the love that Macon has for Muriel as she is unlike his wife and is not as orderly nor organised and has an element of surpise in her. Macon's conflict over his feelings finally get the better of him and he decides to enter into a relationship with Muriel. Howeve, this theme of conflict arises again at the end of the story when Macon's wife wants to reconcile and Macon has to choose between his feelings for Muriel and his feelings for his wife.
Throughout the book there is a theme of humour. Although this is clearly not present at the start of the story, this becomes more evident at first when Macon moves in with his siblings. The eccentric behaviour of his sister Rose is humourous as she arranges the groceries in alphabetical order and ignores the ringing telephone. Humour is also present when Macon meets Muriel as she is a woman of surprise and is unconventional to who Macon would see himself in relationship with and so he finds her company and her antics humourous and this is what causes him to fall in love with her. Humour is clearly a direct contrast to the grief at the beginning of the story.
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