Friday, May 4, 2012

Didion Essay

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Didion tries to relay her message that self respect does not come from outside influences, but rather from within oneself by using a humorous self-criticizing tone. Her usage of a flashback of an important event in her life helps to convey her attitude. She gently pokes fun at herself, while using sarcasm and ironic humor to further support her feelings.

This experience of not getting into Phi Beta Kappa has taught Didion many things about life, as well as about self respect. She looks back at this crucial incident in her life and comes to a healthy self-realization that life is going to be difficult and complicated no matter what kind of person she thinks she is, and no matter how she acts. She comes to realize that self-respect and how well a person thinks of them-self, has absolutely nothing to do with what others think of you. Although this is a loss of innocence, it is displayed in a humorous light, as Didion relates that she did not have grades to be accepted into Phi Beta Kappa as well as how she explains what a “tragic” loss it was. She goes on to further her humor by sharing her belief that the praise people gave her as a child would somehow get her into this prestigious honors society, as well as provide her with “happiness, honor, and the love of a good man.”

She also alludes to Raskolnikov, which emphasizes further her point that she is so na├»ve and thinks that she is above the rules of academics that she will easily get in Phi Beta Kappa. This thinking however, is very similar to that of Raskolnikov, and a similar self-realization occurs as well. This realization is that a person is compelled by the rules of society no matter how important or how special he might think he is. This parallels Didion, who thinks that the academic potential measured in the “Stanford-Binet scale” is sufficient evidence that she should be accepted into Phi Beta Kappa.

The essay’s tone illustrates the humor further by expressing the entire work in a humorous yet honest light. By relating her depressed times in a humorous voice, Didion is able to show both the ridiculousness of childish self-respect, and how she is able to poke fun at her previous actions and come to the realization of how much self respect actually affects other people’s views on her. Thus, she honestly explains the events of her depression by relating exactly what happened in an informal tone, even referring to her lack of grades, and recounting exactly how she had felt her loss of innocence and how this was eventually realized to be a self-deception. This tone adds to the her attitude of the piece by opening her past in a very clear and open way that allows for the understanding of what it was like for her to lose her innocence and the self-realization that became evident from this experience.

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