The Corrections | Study Guide

Jonathan Franzen

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Corrections Study Guide." Course Hero. 14 Dec. 2020. Web. 27 Jan. 2022. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2020, December 14). The Corrections Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 27, 2022, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2020)



Course Hero. "The Corrections Study Guide." December 14, 2020. Accessed January 27, 2022.


Course Hero, "The Corrections Study Guide," December 14, 2020, accessed January 27, 2022,

The Corrections | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


The Corrections uses different cities or locations to focus on the life of each of the main characters. The story uses flashback and episodic storytelling to reveal the background, nature, and struggles of each character before the family and drama converge at Christmas.

St. Jude

Enid Lambert and Alfred Lambert are an elderly Midwestern couple who live in St. Jude, Missouri. Alfred is a retired train engineer and Enid is a housewife. Alfred is suffering from Parkinson's disease and boredom. They spend their days bickering and trying to keep up the demands of home ownership. Enid decides they need a vacation and plans for them to go on a cruise.

The Failure

Enid and Alfred fly to New York City to board their cruise. Their son Chip Lambert picks them up from the airport, and Chip takes them back to his apartment to meet his girlfriend Julia Vrais. Chip's sister Denise Lambert shows up at the apartment to visit her parents and her brother. Julia is packing her bags and leaving Chip when they arrive. Chip and Julia discuss the matter outside the apartment. Julia is tired of Chip's lack of motivation in finding a career. She is also offended by the overtly sexual screenplay Chip has written. She takes off in a cab, and Chip follows her. He leaves his parents and sister in his apartment to wonder where he has gone.

In a series of flashbacks, Chip is fired from his college teaching job because he has an affair with a student named Melissa Paquette. She also introduces him to a pharmaceutical drug called Mexican A. Chip becomes addicted to Mexican A. With no job prospects and no offers for his screenplay, Chip relies on loans from Denise to survive. When Julia's husband Gitanas Misevičius offers him a job in Lithuania, Chip accepts and leaves the country.

The More He Thought about It, the Angrier He Got

The setting of the story shifts to Philadelphia where Gary Lambert and his wife Caroline Lambert live with their three children. Enid asks Gary to come back to the familial home in St. Jude for Christmas. Gary talks to Alfred who tells him that a company wants to buy the patent Alfred holds for a device he invented. In a flashback Gary visits his parents in St. Jude and realizes how much he hates the town and the Midwest. In the present Gary tells Alfred that he must demand more money from the company. Caroline vehemently refuses to go to St. Jude, and she and Gary have a big fight about whether or not she and the children should go.

Gary and Denise attend a business expo for Axon which is the company that wants to buy Alfred's patent. Gary consequently buys Axon stock. Gary and Denise discuss a promising new drug called Corecktall that could ease Alfred's symptoms. They also discuss their parents' future living arrangements.

At Sea

The story shifts back to the cruise ship to focus on Enid and Alfred. Enid worries about Alfred. He has a hallucination and a bizarre conversation with himself that worries and embarrasses Enid. The story flashes back to their early marriage and child-rearing in St. Jude. Alfred is a strict and unloving parent. He is overly hard on the children and Enid and does not give them much affection. Enid is constantly trying to hold the family together and make sure everyone's needs are met before her own.

The story returns to the present as Enid has an appointment with Dr. Hibbard who is the cruise ship doctor. She tries to ask him for help with Alfred but does not explain herself clearly because she is tired from caring for Albert night and day. Instead of treating Alfred, Dr. Hibbard believes Enid needs help. He prescribes her a drug called Aslan to help her sleep and feel better. Enid wakes up feeling better and attends a presentation on the ship called "How to Survive the Corrections." As Enid watches the presentation, Alfred falls off the side of the ship into the ocean. He is rescued and airlifted to a hospital.

The Generator

The story shifts focus to Chip and Denise who exchange a series of emails about their parents and Chip's job in Lithuania. Denise has recently been fired from her job as head chef at a famous restaurant. In a series of flashbacks, Denise's many love affairs and trysts with married people ruin her personal and professional relationships. She takes the head chef job for a new restaurant, and the owner Brian Callahan travels with her to Europe to find flavor inspirations. Brian and Denise have an affair during this time. When they return home, Denise also has an affair with Brian's wife Robin Passafaro. Brian finds out and fires Denise. In the present Chip tells Denise about the work he does in Lithuania. His job is to convince Americans to invest money in shell companies under the guise that they are investing in Lithuania's transition from communism to free market economy.

One Last Christmas

The setting shifts to St. Jude where the family gathers for a last Christmas celebration. The many storylines of the family members converge as they meet at the familial home, and the story focuses on the characters' interactions with one another rather than on one character.

Gary arrives in St. Jude one week before Christmas. He is disturbed by the state of the house and by his father's failing physical health and sharp mental decline. Alfred experiences vivid hallucinations that make everyone in the house miserable. Denise arrives a few days later. She and Gary fight about Enid's use of the highly addictive drug Aslan. It is revealed that Aslan is the same drug that Chip is addicted to under the name Mexican A. Chip arrives at the Christmas celebration an hour before Gary has to leave. Gary's frustrations boil over, and he angrily yells at everyone in the family which causes a huge fight. He leaves in anger.

Alfred later suffers another disturbing hallucination. Chip is there when Alfred wakes up. Alfred wants to commit suicide and asks Chip to help him. Chip refuses and leaves in tears.

The Corrections

After the disastrous Christmas morning, the family decides to place Alfred in a nursing home. Gary loses money in the stock market when his biotech stocks dive. He and Caroline are not fighting as much as they were, and their home life is improving. Denise returns to New York and finds a job at a different restaurant. Chip stays behind to help Enid. He eventually falls in love, marries, and moves to Chicago. Enid shows signs of becoming more tolerant and open-minded. She visits Denise in New York and enjoys her short vacation. Alfred dies, and Enid feels a sense of relief and a desire to make some changes in her life with her newfound freedom.

The Corrections Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 Enid Lambert and Alfred Lambert fly to New York City.

Rising Action

2 Julia Vrais breaks up with Chip Lambert.

3 Gitanas Misevičius offers Chip Lambert a job in Lithuania.

4 Enid Lambert asks Gary Lambert to come home for Christmas.

5 Axon Corporation offers to buy Alfred Lambert's patent.

6 Gary Lambert and Caroline Lambert fight.

7 Enid Lambert and Alfred Lambert board the cruise ship.

8 Alfred Lambert hallucinates and falls off the ship.

9 Denise Lambert tells Chip Lambert about Alfred's fall.

10 Chip Lambert is arrested in Lithuania.


11 The family arrives in St. Jude for Christmas.

Falling Action

12 Gary Lambert loses money in the stock market.

13 Chip Lambert gets married and moves to Chicago.

14 Denise Lambert gets a new job in New York.


15 Alfred dies, and Enid decides to make changes in her life.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Corrections? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!