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Fear of Flying

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Fear of Flying

Fear of Flying:

The fears of Isadora: Her religion (Semi-Jewish), her love life (second husband, seventh analyst; Bennett), her gender (a woman in America! In the sixties!), her career (Writer: one book), sex (are women supposed to enjoy that?), her mother (Jude, an artist who danced naked in France), her sisters (all married, with at least two children apiece), her children (none), her name (Isadora White? Isadora Wing? Isadora White Stollerman Wing Goodlove?) and flying; Isadora has a fear of flying.

Some would say that Fear of Flying , by Erica Jong is merely a feminist novel. It is, but it's more than that. Fear of Flying is a novel about a woman in search of her name and the source of her fears; it is a novel about inner conflict. The main character of the novel is Isadora, a woman in her early thirties in the late sixties. What begins as a work related trip to Vienna with her analyst husband ends as a journey filled with personal revelations. At the conference Isadora develops an infatuation which fuels her need to discover "what is wrong" with her. Traveling throughout Europe with a man who is not her husband she discovers her true self through her complete loss of security. Therein lies the principal irony of Fear of Flying; the journey that the main character takes in order to gain the traits that she sees in her heroines only leads her to find that they were hidden within herself. Isadora is the charicature of irony itself.

The opening chapter sets the tone for the entire novel, which is written like a conversation with one's analyst: casual but intimate. Her odyssey, in fact, begins on a plane full of psychoanalysts. As she puts it: she'd been "treated by at least six of them. And married a seventh." (p. 1) This is a great example of Isadora's outwardly nonchalant views of her own problems. Her own view of her life and her inner monologue pull the reader into her literal and symbolic fear of flying and her lifelong struggle with them. From the beginning she shares with us thirteen years of analysis and counting, yet it is the 336 pages in which we watch her slowly untangle her own conflicts that show the readers the lesson which we were intended to learn.

Isadora is an extremely intelligent character. Although, her extensive knowledge of literature and history, psychoanalysis, and religion emphasizes her ignorance of her own history. Many of Isadrora's problems stem directly from her family. Anne Sexton once said: "A woman is her mother, that's the main thing." As a child Isadora's mother, Jude: called such as retaliation for the extravagant naming of her children, raised her to be anything but ordinary. With Jude, as with most of the other characters in the book, Jong uses the name very symbolically. In the Bible, Jude was the character who betrayed Jesus (the main character) but without him, the story could not have ended correctly. It is the same with Fear's Jude, she is Isadora's enemy as well as her friend and without her the story of Isadora would not be correct. Many people can see their own mothers in the character of Jude, she is perpetually what Isadora does not want her to be, but she is everything that Isadora herself ever wanted to be.

Where many people seek solace in their families, the White (formerly Weiss, changed during the Holocaust to avoid persecution) family does not. Isadora's three sisters; Gundra Miranda "Randy", Lalah, and Chloe, each have at least two children. Isadora has no children and two marriages. Not one character in Isadora's family is accepting of her lifestyle, especially her older sister Randy (mother of nine). Randy represents Isadora's fear of the way that the outside world will perceive her writing, which to her is the most important thing in life. Randy views Isadora's writing as masturbatory, exhibitionistic and filthy. Randy tries to influence Isadora's well-being without any concern for her true desires. Randy is the antithesis of Adrian.

Adrian Goodlove is introduced in the second chapter, after the plane has landed and Isadora is officially trapped in Vienna with the Germans, whom she despises. Within minutes of meeting Adrian, Isadora is completely infatuated, he embodies her fantasy. Adrian is a man who seems to live without rules. For days Isadora's obsession with him grows and her husband Bennett's reaction drives her crazy. Not because he is mad with jealousy, but because he is so maddeningly sympathetic, patronizing even. Jong insures that the reader can feel the conflict in her blood, Isadora's lust for Adrian grows because she knows that she cannot have him, while her love for her husband grows because he knows her so well and is always ready to "save" her.


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