Mistress America

December 11, 2015


Mistress America makes the effort to champion the idiosyncratic, making one the equivalent to laudable for the very sake of being original and hence not a follower. This existence occurs despite the natural tendency for material comfort to be had with those who can assimilate well with others; with those who can conform to a socially agreeable standard. This is not to say that one must be one of the herd in order to succeed – indeed this is very much the opposite with all those who create large sums of wealth. But it does presuppose an understanding of how the world works in order to make oneself cooperative and useful to others, an education which often the idiosyncratic fails at ever acquiring.


And such is the case with the older lead. She never appears to be struggling with herself, and in fact that is what makes her so “cool” to the young protagonist who falls under her spell when in a desperate moment being away to college in her very first semester. Of course the protagonist has no semblance of what an adult ought to behave as; she doesn’t even know how to make coffee. But the excitement of witnessing someone be active in so many things at once is galvanizing to her. That isn’t what many people do with their lives. And in fact, most strive to leave as far away from anxiety as possible, which is why they march toward comfort over the genuine expression of human freedom which entails the necessity of challenge.


The older lead never outwardly appears to be panged by such a decision to lead her life, until crisis hits and she begins realizing the adage that a host with more than one guest goes to bed hungry. By never committing, by never sacrificing many things for the sake of one, she has never been able to capitalize on the many opportunities she thinks she is capable of achieving; most notably her flower printed shirt business which her old friend executed upon and became wealthy through. As Thomas Edison wisely noted, genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration, which the older lead recognizes which leads to her own-self resentment, especially when the apartment locks have changed and she has to make a payment on the refrigeration for her unfinished restaurant. As an aside, this is why so many entrepreneurs stick to one thing. It is nigh impossible to be preoccupied with so many alternatives, simply because the challenges that inevitable come down the road make it easier to abandon the direction than to find a way around the obstacle.


Regardless, the young protagonist at first paints her dilettantism as something that is tragic and almost humiliating in a short story she has written. Her perspective changes, albeit in a scripted way, when the parade of quote “lesser ones” come to defend the older lead; what exactly does this make her reveal, which then turns the story into a positive affirming note? That everyone wants to be as free, at being unrestrained, that perhaps choosing the life of comfort still has its challenges – only that these challenges are artificial and not as satisfying as overcoming ones that lead to living a life like a cup overflowing with wine.


Grade: B



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