The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking Literary Elements



Setting and Context

New York and Los Angeles, December 2003 - December 2004

Narrator and Point of View

Joan Didion, the author, writes from her own point of view.

Tone and Mood

Cool and restrained

Protagonist and Antagonist

Joan Didion

Major Conflict

The death of Joan's husband, John, and the serious illness of her daughter, Quintana are the major conflicts.


John's death, Quintana's hospitalizations


John's heart problems in the past


Didion does not depict very dramatic shows of emotion, despite the heightened emotional states she is in after her husband's death.


Quotes from a variety of sources, including classical literature and medical research


Didion describes the California seaside vistas that surrounded the house she used to have there.


Didion recognizes that her thinking after her husband's death is irrational, but she cannot help but continue thinking that way.


In many places, Didion begins short paragraphs with the same words or phrases, such as a person's name or "So..."

Metonymy and Synecdoche

John's shoes stand in for his person.


Didion's memories and thoughts seem to be "sideswiping her," as though they were driving a car.