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“The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

How the setting (time and place of the novel’s events) has impacted the beginning of the plot

The plot and course of the story are significantly shaped by the initial events of time and place. The author, Joan Didion, and her late husband, John Didion head to the hospital to visit their adopted daughter, Quintana on December 30, 2003. Quintana is severely ill and is in an intensive care unit, in a coma. After the hospital visit, John experiences a massive heart attack as he sat down to have dinner in their apartment in New York. Shortly afterward, John is pronounced dead upon arriving at the hospital. These are painful experiences that Didion finds difficult to accept. Didion is thrown off balance by the death of her husband. She is trying so hard to make sense of it amidst grief and her identity transformation. It is apparent from this explanation that the unexpected demise of her husband at the beginning of the novel significantly influences her actions and state of mind thereafter (Didion, 2009). Unable to come to terms with this loss, she enters into a temporary period of insanity where she believes that her husband will one day come back to life.

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How might the narrator’s memory impact the events and message of the novel?

The memory of the narrator plays a significant role in the development of the plot of the novel. Indeed, most of the events and messages of the novel are shaped by her memories. It is from these memories that the reader gets to learn vital information about the late husband. Didion’s memories stem from her childlike belief that wishes and thoughts can change her present situation. She considers this behavior a form of “magical thinking,” and draws more inspiration from her studies of literature. Readers are able to learn from Didion’s memories that her husband’s death could have been caused by depression that he developed as a result of his daughter’s devastating health condition (Didion, 2009). The poor health of his daughter prompted John to reflect upon his life and conclude that he was a failure. Therefore, the narrator’s memory helps to build the plot of the narrative and give the reader crucial background information about the life of the couple in the past.

The rhetorical strategy the author has incorporated into section one of their novel

The one rhetoric strategy that runs throughout the novel is the use of ethos. Ethos refers to a persuasive technique that highlights credibility to appeal to the audience. Throughout the novel, Didion is committed to convincing her audience that she is ethical and reliable. In as much as she is engulfed by grief and sorrowful memories, she takes her time to face the realities of life as they are. Didion tries to dissect grief in American society and concludes that it is a form of self-pity, wallowing, and self-indulgence (Didion, 2009). All these are acts of self-involvement and weaknesses that contradict the American ideals of self-reliance, stoicism, and independence.

She asserts that grief is a mental illness state where an extreme corrective thinking version replaces rational thought. From the very title of her book, Didion tends to suggest that magical thinking is a childlike belief in a human’s ability to control or change the outcomes of events. Throughout the novel, magical thinking has been used to represent a state of delusion of the mind. This feeling is common among many people going through sorrowful moments of their lives. Didion attempts to appeal to them that they are right in their magical thoughts.

Reference

Didion, J. (2009). The Year of Magical Thinking. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "“The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion." August 20, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-year-of-magical-thinking-by-joan-didion/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) '“The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion'. 20 August.

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