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"She took my hand and pulled me after her, her shoulder giving off a sweet peppermint concoction that the bodies of young women sometimes produce to make my life more difficult."
Misha is in love with Rouenna. No matter what she does or how complicated his life becomes, he wants to be with her. Through Shteyngart's poetic language, Rouenna's very scent becomes a microcosm of Misha's experience with her. She complicates everything for him, but she's so sweet he can't help but want her.
"Life for young American college graduates is a festive affair. Free of having to support their families, they mostly have gay parties on rooftops where they reflect at length upon their quirky electronic childhoods and sometimes kiss each other on the lips and neck."
Misha doesn't live the life he wish he does. He wants to be in America, but he's not allowed to enter the country because of his father's mistakes. In a direct way, he blames his dad for ruining every chance he should've had to be successful in life up to this point. Unlike the typical American student who has time to be reckless and have fun because of their parents' money, Misha is paying for his dad's poor choices and spending all of his energy trying to undo what his dad did before him. He doesn't have the same opportunities that most young people do, and he resents it. This resentment takes the shape of criticism of people his age, specifically young American students who globally represent the idea of waste and privelege.
"From the moment I bought my ticket, I had a premonition I wasn't returning to New York anytime soon.
You know, this happens a lot to Russians. The Soviet Union is gone, and the borders are as free and passable as they've ever been. And yet, when a Russian moves between the two universes, this feeling of finality persists, the logical impossibility of a place like Russia existing alongside the civilized world, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, sharing the same atmosphere with, say, Vladivostok. It was like those mathematical concepts I could never understand in high school: if, then. If Russia exists, then the West is a mirage; conversely, if Russia does not exist, then and only then is the West real and tangible. No wonder young people talk about 'going beyond the cordon' when they talk of emigrating, as if Russia were ringed by a vast cordon sanitaire. Either you stay in the leper colony or you get out into the wider world and maybe try to spread your disease to others."
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Misha expresses the residual fear that persists for those who lived through that era. He left New York, fearing he wouldn't be allowed to return due to his country's strict laws. In reality, he could leave Russia at any time, but he, and his fellow countrymen, still feel as if there is an invisible barrier of law enforcement officers patrolling the borders to ensure none leave again. Misha almost feels like all countries outside of Russia cease to exist while he's there and vice verse. The reality of the post-Soviet era is one of uncertainty and continued fear of isolation and government control.
"All over America, the membrane between adulthood and childhood had been eroding, the fantastic and the personal melding into one, adult worries receding into a pink childhood haze."
Based on his personal resentment of his lack of opportunity in life due to his dad's mistakes, Misha resents American youth. He does in truth, however, observe a very real concern about American society: the people aren't growing up. He observes how the young adults are denying their responsibilities and getting away with it. This is the result of going to college on Daddy's dime.
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