Elizabeth Strout’s novel, Olive Kitteridge, is filled with stories about the lives of regular people in Crosby, Maine. Throughout the stories, different characters are faced with adversity they are forced to deal with. While some handle their problems well and are able to cope with their hardships, others, even those with good intensions, do not find a happy ending. The story “Tulips” encapsulates the a recurring theme of the book; life is uncertain and takes us down roads upon which we had never imagined ourselves having to travel, and while these obstacles may very in their severity, it is how one is able to cope with their individual adversity that will ultimately determine their happiness.
Also, the use of schadenfrude by characters is a common theme throughout many of the stories, and although Strout has shown the ineffectiveness earlier in the book, “Tulips” goes on to deliver the message of how to proceed through life after experiencing loss and after the realization that schadenfrude will not heal a person.
The story begins with an implication that the Larkin family of Crosby, Maine had experienced some sort of tragedy or embarrassment by the fact that Strout states, “People thought the Larkin couple would move after what happened.” (140) We learn later that the event was a particularly violent murder committed by Doyle, the son of Rodger and Louise Larkin. Rodger and Louise had become recluse since the event, which naturally intrigued the inhabitants of the small town. However, after the initial period of interest, the people in town are quick to put the Larkin family out of their minds.
Strout quickly refers to life’s unpredictability and the average persons denial of this by the fact that people, “turned their heads away, not wanting to be reminded of what could happen to a family that seemed as pretty and fresh as blueberry pie.” (141) She also uses terrific imagery to represent how every family and individual deals with loss and...
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