Some of my friends and acquaintances who've read Seeking the Center have remarked that they "liked Agnes at the end" of the story -- which is interesting to me, because, does that mean they didn't like her at the beginning?
It ties in with a feeling I've had all along about Agnes, and about the way the book ends. I feel sad that, in some ways, at least, she "settles." Sometimes I worry that, maybe, she's not the girl-hero that I initially envisioned, routed for, and loved.
I think I understand what those readers mean, though. Agnes does "grow up." She becomes (visibly) less angry, more "likeable." There are positives there, surely, but there's also a loss, because that anger was not only a driving force in her psyche -- it was righteous.
As a woman -- and this may apply as well to other people who exist outside of society's dominant culture -- your anger doesn't ever get resolved. It doesn't disappear, either. You only "choose" to deal with it in different ways, ways that allow you to "grow up" and "move forward," but that also cause you to bury parts of yourself and your experience.
So, do I "like Agnes at the end" better than I did at the beginning? I don't know. I do think she is more compassionate, more emotionally intelligent. There is an upside to this change, and part of the benefit, I hope, will accrue to her. But what is the cost, not only to her as an individual person with only one life to live, but multiplied out across society? What is the cost of millions of Agneses "growing up" and "moving forward," while leaving their anger unaddressed, unanswered, unresolved?
It makes me think of the famous Langston Hughes poem. What does happen to a dream deferred?