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“The Artificial Love”
In Anne Tylers “The Artificial Family,” the personality and character of three individuals are revealed: Toby, Mary and Samantha. The story has no real resolution and seems to end where it began. The characters learn and unlearn by the time the story is complete. There is no long introduction or development of the characters; the characters develop throughout the short story. Tyler uses immediate dialogue making the story even more intriguing for the reader as well as writing simply; this style is ironic due to the intensity of the plot. The author makes it seem like a simple story about two individuals who rush into a relationship only to have it fall apart. However, the plot is much more intense than this.
There are two main themes of “The Artificial Family,” love and communication. The conflict is between Toby and his wife Mary. Toby learns to love but does not ever learn how to communicate this love in a positive way with his wife. Another title that would work for this story would be “The Artificial Love.” The second theme is the importance of positive communication. Mary never communicated her seriousness about her feelings between Toby and Samantha. She shared there was a problem but chose not to deal with that problem. She left Toby without even discussing their problems with him. Toby never seemed to initiate any interest in his wifes needs. He never asked her why she felt as she did. He just said he did not see a problem.
The story begins with Mary’s first words to Toby in their introduction to each other; “Did you know I have a daughter?” (400) This sets the focus of both of the characters into place. The daughter, Samantha, seems to be the neutral character in the story who not only ties the two main characters together but is used to separate them as well.
Toby is presented as a young college student who is in graduate school on scholarships. He is studying science and seems easy going. He is simple but not a flat character. He starts out not knowing love and ends the story knowing broken love. He learns what it means to love but has not learned what it means to be a husband. In the relationship, he was more of a friend to the two rather than a dad and husband. I do not think he ever saw fault but rather felt pity that she left him.
Mary is presented as a closed-off person who is disciplined in emotion and in physical stature. She is described as being a strong model for her child and apparently the child had followed her model until the marriage with Toby. Mary is seen as reserved and dressed that way also. Toby described her as smelling of burlap and that she wore her hair up with bobby pins (401). This changes after they marry. She started wearing her hair down and dressed in shorter dresses. He knew something was wrong when she started to wear her hair up with those long dresses again.
Samantha is a quiet one at first, but soon, after Mrs. and Mr. Scott left, she became closer to Toby. They would roughhouse. At first she was paired with her mom in wearing long dresses and looking very solemn. But she took to Toby and became more spoiled.
All three characters had one thing in common; they all wanted to be loved. Toby felt having them as his own was love. Mary wanted love but found herself being loved as second best. And Samantha found love from Toby but was taken away by her mom. All three sought for love and found it. Unfortunately, they did not learn how to communicate love with each other. The story “The Artificial Family” leaves the reader with a sense of tragedy. It was tragic that the marriage ended so quickly and so abruptly.