An American Childhood Imagery

An American Childhood Imagery

Personal Recollections

It is not surprising that a memoir is full of narratives of events in the past told through the perspective of a younger, more headstrong Annie Dillard. The book is full of descriptions of places, people, sensations, and nuances of emotions she experiences growing up, all noted in painstaking detail. These accounts are necessary not just to give the reading audience a sense of chronological progression but also an idea of Annie’s intellectual, emotional, and social maturation.


Annie seems to have been born with an innate and insatiable curiosity about the world around her and unsurprisingly she is a heavy reader, devouring books of all sorts with a great gusto. Throughout the novel she makes several literary references, evidence that she is indeed a voracious reader. These books are also critical to her development as a person as each book that she reads makes an immense impact upon her. The book Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson ignites her sense of imagination. Sherlock Holmes inspires her to become more deliberate in her observations, and the various biographies of famous individuals such as Andrew Carnegie and the French symbolist poets become central to the formation of her social conscience.

Historical Events

Very early in her life Annie learns that her hometown of Pittsburgh is not just rich in history but rich in historical significance and she takes the time to both learn and record these details. She chronicles her hometown’s prehistoric past, it's time as Native American lands, the role the area takes during the American Revolution, and so on. In plumbing these historical events she develops a deep appreciation for the lives that have lived in the area and their contribution to society. Moreover, in studying the history of her area makes a connection of herself to events in the past and realizes that she too must make an important contribution herself.


Images of family can be found throughout the memoir as her family life is the core from which many of Annie Dillard’s earliest formative memories spring from. The narratives of family vary greatly throughout her writing ranging from warm, sentimental to hateful and angry. These narratives are often ties to imagery of her personal recollections and as with those images, family descriptions are also a necessary component of her story-building as it serves to give the reading audience both an appreciation and an understanding of where her sentiments come from.


There is a considerable segment of the narrative that describes institutions that have either been formative of Annie’s voyage of personal growth and discovery or the object of her ire and the recipient of her rebellious behavior. Out of all the institutions, it is the Church and school that irk Annie the most; as such she is often in trouble with both institutions. The imagery of Church and School serve as a springboard for narratives of her intolerance for prejudice and a lack of integrity—the root cause of her rebelliousness—as Annie sees both institutions as hypocritical and oppressive.

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