An American Childhood

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An American Childhood In Annie Dillards "An American Childhood", which is an autobiograhpy, she writes many times about her "awakenings" as a child. I see these moments as times that Annie becomes aware of her own body and its presence in the living world. She has numerous "awakenings" because, like all people, she must learn the same lesson many times before it sticks. Although each of the waking moments are alike, they also each impower her with different information about existing on Earth.

When she was five, Annie "would not go to bed willingly because something came into (her) room. If I spoke of it, it would kill me." (Pg.20). The thing would start at one point and move across the wall, and had several sections like a dragon. It also made noise. She would freeze, and she "dared not blink or breath." The thing might return later that night, or it may never come at all; it was a game.

One night, Annie awoke. She made the correlation between the noise the thing made, and the sound a passing car made in the daytime. This dicovery was huge. She started to understand that inside and outside happened at the same time, and that at any given moment in time, other people were living out there lives in the world. She realizes that "the world did not have me in mind," meaning she was not the center of everyones attention at all times. When she slept, the outside world did not.

Annie becomes self-conciese at this point also, noticing that she was just "a child walking up the sidewalk, whom anyone could see or ignore." (Pg. 22) Many times, even as older people, we still sometimes forget that we have a physical body that our minds are trapped in. We make oppinions and judge people on appearances, but forget that we can be judged superficially too. In the case of the opposite extreme, some people are overly aware of how others percieve them, and never let their bodies loose. Individuals need to find the level of self awareness that they are most comfortable with.

With her parents and grandparents, Annie tests the limits of human skin. With repeated stretchings and prodings, Annie decides that adults are coming apart. They are defected, unlike her, a youthful girl. She also realizes that the adults in her neighborhood do not move. They don't run, play in fields, ride bikes, go sledding, or do anything of interest at all. She thinks it must be a commonly know rule for grown-ups. They have to sit and talk, and can't run becuase their skin is falling off. I think we see how Annie's brain is working, thinking all the time, waking, but she has not tamed it.

"My mother had given me the freedom of the streets as soon as I could say our telephone number." Annie Dillard walked. She explored. She would mainly go to the park that her father forbade, but her mom allowed. Annie formed mental maps of where she had been; the town,the park, everywhere. These maps consumed her brain, and excited her imagination. She wished to meet bums, or be a pioneer from the past. Everyday the boundaries were pushed, and the maps grew. Walking for her was a way to have freedom, and push her limits. She woke up to the outside world, and understood more and more.

By "awake" Annie Dillard simply means self aware, and conciese of the outside world that surrounds us that never stops . She says that once we are fully awake, we can never go back, but I disagree. Occasionally I have moments where I forget who I am, and I surprise myself. It is possible to momentarily be "unawake", and also I think that some people never wake up. Everybody sees life with different eyes, and I think many peoples eyes are drowsy.