Phil Dunphy

"I’m the cool dad, that’s my thang. I’m hip, I surf the web, I text. LOL: laugh out loud, OMG: oh my god, WTF: why the face." - Phil Dunphy

Saturday, August 18, 2012


            Elizabeth Strout, author of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize Award with her book, Olive Kitteridge, weaves numerous narratives together all in the presence of one, unforgettable character, in her masterpiece. Not surprisingly, this one distinguished character goes by the name of Olive Kitteridge. Strout’s prized character, Olive, mirrors the author’s life in certain areas. For example, after growing up in various towns in northern New England, Strout decides to develop the character Olive in a small town by the name of Crosby, Maine. Olive Kitteridge teaches for a living, paralleling Strout’s mother. Despite these charming comparisons, I would most definitely not befriend Olive due to her pretentious demeanor and shrewd attitude. The novel begins with a narrative that describes the relationship Olive possesses with her husband, Henry Kitteridge. Henry, a laid-back man who runs the town’s pharmacy with a young woman by the name of Denise, loves interacting with his working partner and her husband. While the Kitteridge’s eat dinner with the young couple (despite Olive’s protests), Olive cries out, “for God’s sake,” after Henry spills ketchup down the front of his shirt (7). Olive’s profane diction creates a tone of resentment towards her husband’s clumsiness. The italicized word “sake” indirectly characterizes her as accusatory and fed up with Henry’s actions. She goes on to announce to her husband that Denise “Looks just like a mouse” (5). The simile portrays Olive’s judgmental mentality towards others, illustrating her as an arrogant person. I do not desire to become friends with a woman that treats her husband as cruelly as Olive Kitteridge does and who possesses an air of contempt toward other people. Strout delves into another narrative about Olive Kitteridge’s son’s wedding day. Christopher Kitteridge, Olive’s son, unsurprisingly marries a woman with similar qualities to his mother: controlling and arrogant. Olive seems to understand the danger of having a daughter-in-law that thinks she can do nothing wrong, and the effects it will have on her son. In realizing this, Olive decides to steal and undergarment from Suzanne’s room, as well as a shoe. She also goes into Suzanne’s closet to draw black marker on one of her sweaters. Olive chooses these things “just to keep the self-doubt alive” in her daughter-in-law (74). Who is Olive to decide to vandalize and steal certain belongings of Suzanne in order keep intact the young woman’s arrogance? In her actions, Olive proves more audacious than her daughter-in-law. Speaking personally, I would not like to befriend a person who stole my underwear unknowingly from me. Strout warns those in search of friends to take care in choosing friends who think of themselves more highly than others.  


  1. I agree with you that Olive comes off as arrogant and judgmental towards others; she seems to have little desire to interact with anyone she deems annoying or unimportant, and I do not think she has a right to make such decisions about people she does not know. However I also admire her for her faith in her own opinions, and I think that she could provide loyal friendship to someone that has earned her respect.

  2. Although I also found Olive cold and rude at the beginning of the book, Strout revealed a kinder, gentler side of this complex character when her husband Henry had a stroke. Olive faithfully visited him at his nursing home everyday, even though spending time with the mute, blind Henry only depressed her and exacerbated her loneliness. Personally, I would befriend someone with the same degree of loyalty and compassion as Olive.

  3. I agree with you that Olive seems quite unpleasant in parts of the novel, however, I believe that this results from the many rough experiences she had in her life. I believe that Olive shows redeeming qualities in her interactions with people such as Nina, and I think that Olive deserves a true friend to lighten her load and bring out her softer side more often.