Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult
The novel I chose to read was called “Perfect Match” by Jodi Picoult. This novel is briefly about a female character named Nina Frost who is found in a courtroom who unexplainably shoots the defendant four times as he approaches his defence attorney. Nina and the defendant being the priest at the time of trial (and shooting) has been led to believe that Father Szyszynski had sexually abused her five year-old son Nathaniel after lab tests had confirmed his semen was found in the child’s underpants, and Nathaniel had verbally accused Father “ Glen “ Szyszynski of molesting him. It later turned out that Nina in fact killed the wrong man, and a visiting priest named Father Gwynne had molested Nathaniel. Fathers Gwynne and Szyszynski shared the same DNA because the latter had a bone marrow transplant from the former, therefore leading to the belief that the semen belonged to Szyszynski. Although this fact was made known at Nina’s own court trial for murder, after the jury could not reach a verdict, the judge ruled that her reasons were justified and therefore she was found not guilty of murder. In the final twist at the end, Nina’s best friend and colleague Patrick Ducharme (whom she had an affair with throughout the duration of her trial when she had briefly split up with husband Caleb) moves away, and Nina discovers that Caleb had poisoned Father Gwynne, despite his earlier protests to her killing Father Szyszynski.
As a reader and critic of the novel I felt this book was very intriguing simply because there was always something happening in the novel there was never a dull moment, once something happened it was inevitable that something bigger and unexpected was sure to follow.
While reading Perfect Match I came across many theories which could have been related to the ones learned in class. One of which I thought the novel dealt with a great amount was the symbolic interactionism theory. This theory is a psychological theory that attempts to explain how individuals choose how they will act based on their perceptions of themselves and of others. An example of this theory in the book would be when Nina had just committed the crime and was in the holding cell where she later got her one call which was to Caleb. Where she told Caleb…
“I need you to call Fisher Carrington he’s a defence attorney. And he’s the only person who can get me out of this. I don’t care what you have to do, but get him to represent me.”(p.135)
In relation to the theory Nina acted the way she did because the actions of clients that she has represented affected the way she felt about the situation. She knew how many child molesters have got away with this offense which at the time she was led to believe was Father Szyszynski. Ultimately Nina chose to act the way she did because she knew the ins and outs of the law and cases very similar to the one she was in. The fact that she knew people like Fisher Carrington, lead Nina to act upon her belief that he would be able to get her out of the situation she was getting herself into. Nina believed that she would be able to get out of the situation because of who she was and the authority she had in the courtroom.
While continuing to read the novel I came across other instances of the symbolic interactionism theory. An example, of this was when Caleb was ethnocentrically evaluating what Nina had done to Father Szyszynski. We find this out in the novel when Nina is still on the phone with Caleb and he asks her
“What am I suppose to tell Nathaniel?” and she responses
“That I’m okay and that I’ll be home tomorrow”
She knew Caleb was angry because she could hear it in the pause he had taken. (This was stated in the novel.) p.135
The fact that Caleb did not wish to tell his son Nathaniel where his mother really was shows the readers that what Nina did was not part of the norms in their society according to his point of view. This lead the readers to believe that he could not accept what Nina had done because he was not used to these actions. Caleb needed to find out who he really married and how he believed this situation was going to turn out according to how people were reacting to the situation.
The Situation that Nina and Caleb were faced with was something that must have been unbelievably hard for the both of them. According to the McCreary Adolescent Health Survey taken in 1999, 35% of girls and 16% of boys between grades 7 – 12 had been sexually and/or physically abused. After viewing these demographics I realized that the situations in this novel are not completely unrealistic for the Canadian family. Events in the novel like Nina getting away with the murder of Father Szyszynski are not very realistic, the law takes murder very seriously in Canada and Nina would not have been able to just walk away almost as if nothing had happened. The novel content does not exactly compare to Canadian family but has similar aspects some of which being free choice of mate selection, being a dual income family, and Egalitarian family.
Nina as well as Caleb dealt with many different situations and after effects of their child being molested. Possible consequences that could occur within families after this situation is presented are: loss of family income, police or social-service intervention and subsequent court trials, psychiatric treatment or captivity, the break-up of the family, and public shame. Once in the open, the situation must be handled sensitively for the child’s sake; interviews, medical examinations, and court procedures must be conducted with an awareness of the child’s acute fears and anxieties. The child would defiantly they no longer are independent and can handle events similar to these ones on their own. An event in the novel when we realize that Nathaniel has lost his independence was when he was no longer uses words to communicate but now only using hand signs similar to sign language. Nina had felt this was the only way she was able to communicate with her son because she no longer felt they were connecting like they used to. She felt as though the relationship was solely consanguinity based.
According to Erik Erikson 8 stages of psychosocial development Nathaniel was unable to complete all stages successfully. Stage one Oral sensory which is birth to 18months was completed with success as well as stage to Muscular Anal which is 18months to 3 years. According to Erik Erikson’s third stage for psychosocial development called locomotor Nathaniel by the age of 3-6 is when the child is faced with the basic conflict of initiative and guilt where the child is to feel more independent. Nathaniel was molested between this stage and he was faced with the guilt of not knowing exactly what is right and wrong. The third stage was interrupted by a situation that will affect Nathaniel for a life time. According to recent studies 1 in 2 children who are molested blame it on themselves. After looking at this demographic and Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development this event will always be carried with Nathaniel because according to Erik if these stages are not followed accurately his psychosocial development will bee disrupted. So in this case the final stages in his life will be different due to this event.
While reading the novel there where many things that I enjoyed such as the characters all had a different side to them they were not just a perfect family dealing with a problem in which everything is resolved and they live happily ever after. I loved the fact that the characters portrayed so many different types of emotions which many people today would convey such as, not being able to hold in the fact that the person sitting next to them in the courtroom did this to their child. I do not believe that they would go to the extreme of murdering them but I do believe that parents would be very unforgiving and wish horrible things upon the person and that is the type of things we saw in Nina’s character. Another character I really enjoyed reading was Caleb simply because as much as he hated what Nina had dione and how much he knew it was going to affect their family, he loved her for doing those things because it showed how passionate she was about her son. Although I believe Caleb’s character could be a little hypocritical at times it’s something that we deal with in people all the time and it made his character to be a lot more real and relatable for the readers.
In conclusion the events that happened in this book were very life like in many different aspects. The situations the characters experience show the reader how something similar may occur within the Canadian family. Not only does this book relate to this course tremendously it allows the readers to understand the circumstances of situations like this and how hard it is to deal with it. Overall the novel was very informative on many circumstances. Also comparing the matter with Erik Erikson’s view describes the general developmental issues when a child is faced with something as serious the one in the novel as well as the symbolic interactionism theory.
Holloway, Grath, Jane Witte, Justice Marvin A. Zuker, and Maureen Holloway. Individuals and Families in a Diverse Society. Toronto, Onatario: Patty Pappas, 2003. 38.
Picoult, Jodi. Perfet Match. New York: Atria Books, 2002. 135-147.
Bridget. “Book Review: Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult.” 05 May 2007. 03 Dec. 2007
Holloway, Maureen, Garth Holloway, Jane Witte, and Justice Marvin A. Zuker. INdividuals and Familes in a Diverse Society. Toronto, Ontario: Patty Pappas, 2003. 98-103.