Muriel Pritchett vs. Sarah Leary: Macon’s Choice
Compared to other novels that deal with love affairs and romances, The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler is different because it takes the reader on a trip through the character’s minds. Macon Leary’s wife separates herself from him. Their problems begin with the death of their son, Ethan Leary. That is not to say that they agree on raising him, because they didn’t. “When Ethan was born, he only brought out more of their differences” (16). They choose to raise Ethan differently. Sarah wants to let him be happy and free, while Macon wants him to be more scheduled and structured. The already struggling relationship is now even more troubled. Macon is not an affectionate person and his wife, Sarah, would surely validate that. When he is going away on business and needs somewhere to board his dog Edward, he encounters Muriel Pritchett, who is straightforward and strange with her introduction. In the beginning it is hard to determine what Macon’s choice will be. If he chooses Sarah, he may not be able to have her because of the way that she feels. Although Macon still feels connected to Sarah, he is more compatible with Muriel.
Sarah is arguably much more normal than Macon, depending on which definition of normal is used. Sarah is more of a team player than Macon is. Macon keeps to his systems, while Sarah wants them to make decisions together. “What harm would it do to wait it out? You’d be showing some concern. You’d be telling me we’re in this together” (4). Macon replies, “I’ve got a system, Sarah. You know I drive according to a system” (4). She can come off as being over dramatic at times, and somewhat annoying, but that could possibly be because we are used to Macon’s mundane personality. Macon still feels that he might in some way be responsible for his son’s death. Sarah tries to convince him that he is not. She does not support his career, which to her seems boring and pointless. Sarah is comforting for Macon. They have been together for a long time and have a history together. She, at times, can be just what Macon needs to feel comfortable. Even though he preaches that you don’t need to be home to feel home, he contradicts himself in that aspect. Although Macon himself feels that he has trouble showing emotion, he doesn’t see anything wrong with the way he acts. He may disagree with Sarah on many fundamental levels such as this, but he feels that if he were to leave Sarah, he would in some ways be leaving his son’s legacy behind. But when he meets Muriel Pritchett, things change.
Muriel has a son named Alexander who is about the age Macon’s son was when he died. This automatically makes Macon more drawn toward Muriel. “He hadn’t known she had a little boy. He felt some inner click of adjustment; she was a slightly different person from the one he’d imagined” (111). We do see Macon’s soft side emerge somewhat when he is dealing with Alexander. He may in ways feel that he might be able to pick up where he had left off. Even though Alexander should not affect Macon’s decision on which he loves, it does inevitably sway his decision subconsciously. Muriel has a very unique personality to say the least. She can come off as very abrasive and rough, but she always remains to keep a certain compassionate vibe about all that she does. Muriel’s personality is exactly what Macon needs. Because he has trouble with emotions, he does not need to do much thinking when it comes to Muriel, because she puts it all out in front of him. She doesn’t censor herself or care if she is being too straightforward. You can’t say that she is confusing because she leaves no room for discussion. This is similar to Macon in all aspects of his life. Macon’s travel guides’ pride themselves on helping people travel without having to feel as if they’d left home. Sarah thought that Macon was robbing people of life experiences. Sarah can’t live like Macon does in this aspect. She