Book Review of The End of the Road

The End of the Road
The End of the Road
Author: John Barth
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
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In the beginning the book was very boring, so much so that I read the book on and off having to start over several times. The main characters Jake Horner, Joe Morgan and his wife Rennie Morgan debated/argued over the dumbest insignificant things, for example:

"Jacob? This is Rennie Morgan. Will you have dinner with us tonight?"
"Why, for God's sake?" This Jacob Horner was an irritable type.
"Yes. Why the Hell are you all so anxious to feed me dinner?"
"Are you angry?"
"No, I'm not angry. I just want to know why you're all so anxious to feed me a dinner?"
"Don't you want to come?"
"I didn't say that. Why are you all so anxious to feed me a dinner? That's all I asked."

(Most normal people wouldn't have pressed the issue and would have just basically written them off as one less person to have to see and deal with in life.)

This went on for at least two pages. YAWN! Not to mention other discussions/arguments/debates were all pretty much this way. Pointless, and needless in the book. Took up most of the book and in my opinion was really just a LOT of filler. The real interesting parts were mostly more than half way through the book.

Jacob refers to the weather a lot when he refers to his moods which I found odd. He even has a dream about it which is even more bizarre. I understand the time frame in the book to be in the early 1950's when striking a woman, even beating her was acceptable but seriously it just made the characters very weak when in fact what primarily Rennie was made to be more of a strong type. It was rather appalling to say the least knowing the the original copyright of the book was of 1958 almost in the 60's when a lot of women started not putting up with such crap.

Joe has Rennie give riding lessons to Jacob to keep Rennie sharp on her ability to debate at least that's how I saw it really and not as a hook up. While he worked on his paper. Joe is portrayed as the domineer type that is always in control and a rather annoying know it all figure. What makes me hate Joe even more is that his wife Rennie things he is all strong and nothing can take him down and that he is so perfect in every way, even though a real man would never hit a woman whether or not she is his wife. The writer shows Jacob as someone that doesn't have anyway to make his solid decisions but rather wear a different mask with each question or argument depending what the subject matter. Rennie seemed to be a people pleaser even though she's supposed to be free of those types of qualities.

My favorite part of the book is when Jacob and Rennie come back from a ridding lesson and they spy on Joe while he is in his study room alone.......

"Want to eavesdrop?" I whispered impulsively to Rennie. "Come on, it's great! see the animals in their natural habitat."
Rennie looked shocked. "What for?"
"You mean you never spy on people when they're alone? It's wonderful! Come on, be a sneak! It's the most unfair thing you can do to a person."

.......blah blah blah, a couple of paragraphs later.......

"It is indeed the grossest of injustices to observe a person who believes himself to be alone. Joe Morgan, back from his Boy Scouts meeting, had evidently intended to do some reading, for there were books lying open on the writing table and on the floor beside the bookcase. But Joe wasn't reading. He was standing in the exact center of the bare room, fully dressed, smartly executing military commands. About face! Right dress! 'Ten-shun! Parade rest! He saluted briskly, his cheeks blown out and his tongue extended, and then proceeded to cavort about the room-spinning, pirouetting, bowing, leaping, kicking. I watched entranced by his performance, for I cannot say that in my strangest moments (and a bachelor has strange ones) I have surpassed him. Rennie trembled from head to foot. Ah! passing a little mirror on the wall, Joe caught his own eye. What? What? Ahoy there! He stepped close, curtsied to himself, and thrust his face to within two inches of the glass. Mr. Morgan, is it? Howdy do, Mr. Morgan. Blah bloo blah. Oo-o-o-o blubble thlwurp. He mugged antic faces at himself, sklurching up his eye corners, zbloogling his mouth about, glubbling his cheeks. Mither Morgle. Nyoing nyang nyumpie. Vglibble vglobble vglup. Vggiggybloo! Thlucky thlucky, thir. He jabbed his spectacles back on his nose. Had he heard some sound? No. He went to the writing table and apparently resumed his reading, his back turned to us. The show, then, was over. Ah, but one moment-yes. He turned slightly and we could see: his tongue gripped purposefully his lips at the side of his mouth, Joe was masturbating and picking his nose at the same time. I believe he also hummed a sprightly tune in rhythm with his work."

I was glad to see that Joe wasn't so high and mighty after all, probably the best part of the book mind you.

It also shows Jacob as being in a bus station at one time, probably would have been better if it had started that way other than waiting almost half way through to show how he became a professor at a college. He runs into a doctor at the bus station that is supposed to be a psychiatrist and ends up going to his rehabilitation farm as the doctor calls it to be cured from being in a state of paralysis. I thought the doctor was a quack. Probably a nut job that escaped a loony bin himself and pretended to be a doctor running an illegal practice.

Of the craziest things Jacob and Rennie have an affair while Joe is out of town. The two of them only do it once and for the life of either of them they can't remember who engaged in it first or why they did it at all. The odd way that Joe deals with it by wanting his wife and "friend" to continue to do so until they can give a why is just as crazy. I think they're all a little nuts.

Rennie keeps stating that Jacob doesn't exist even before they have an affair, she says this several times in the book as does Jacob, especially after Rennie ends up pregnant. When he leaves in the end to follow the quack of a doctor to the new location that is when he no longer exists, he is giving up his life to be free of having to think for himself and essentially to not "exist". It's his guilt of Rennie's death from the illegal abortion that makes him not want to exist anymore in my opinion. Thus calling it the novel "The End of the Road" is quite fitting. I think for the time frame of the book, it was probably quite shocking when a book of this nature came bout and talked about adultery, and abortion as those were such taboo things in that time period.