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Rhetorical Analysis - The Year of Magical Thinking

            Graham Greene once said, "Grief and disappointment are like hate: they make men ugly with self-pity and bitterness. And how selfish they make us too." Author Joan Didion, in her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, narrates the year after the death of her husband, John Dunne, and her attempts to deal with her grief while tending to the grave illness of her daughter, Quintana. A superficial reading of this memoir concludes that the work is beautifully, emotionally, and honestly written; even so, Didion's hollow tone in the memoir and the ornate and subdued dictions make the work looks rather like a reference book about grief rather than a memoir. .
             Didion opens her memoir by admonishing the reader that life can change in split second, which is repeated several times throughout her memoir. She is trying to imply how quickly and unexpectedly a good everyday life can change into tragedy; in addition, she applies to her interview with people of the 9/11 tragedy and how it was just an ordinary beautiful September day (4), and suddenly the World Trade Center buildings come crashing down and fill the sky with smoke. Digging deeper into the memoir, Didion construes that how unexpectedly her husband passed and how suddenly her daughter's normal cold turned into pneumonia and septic shock have changed her views of everyday life, which is what usually happens when one experience such sudden change of events in his or her life. Secondly, Didion inserts unique quotes from various literatures and movies throughout her memoir that relate to her life in some way, particularly the lines Full fathom five thy father lies/ Those are pearls that were his eyes (19). The lines are excerpts from Ariel's Song, a verse passage from William Shakespeare's The Tempest. The way she relates these lines to her experience of losing her husband evokes sympathy from the reader and makes her grief even more forlorn; she tells the undertaker not to embalm Dunne's body, and the undertaker replies that he is going to just clean him up (18).

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