Why was an American childhood an insight to the topic by Annie Dillard

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winston-smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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If I understand your question you are asking about insights from Annie Dillard’s essay “American Childhood”. Dillard’s purpose, beyond entertaining her audience, is to show that exuberance plays more of a role in ability than gender. So it can be said that gender is one of the topics that Dillard addresses in her short story. Knowing that gender is one of Dillard’s topics we can look for insights into what she is saying about gender. As noted earlier exuberance, or energetic passion, can be more important in gaining and perfecting a skill than gender. Meaning simply that a person’s gender is less important to ability than passion and energy. Dillard writes that she had a “boy’s arm” for throwing, suggesting that she had, by her friends’ standards, the ability to throw well. The “boy’s arm”, or the ability to throw well, came from as she puts it “enthusiastic practice”, showing that it was her energy and passion that gave her the arm not her gender.

This enthusiasm overcoming gender is also represented in the following quote.

“It was all or nothing. If you hesitated in fear, you would miss and get hurt: you would take a hard fall while the kid got away, or you would get kicked in the face while the kid got away. But if you flung yourself wholeheartedly at the back of his knees-if you gathered and joined body and soul and pointed them diving fearlessly-then you likely wouldn't get hurt, and you'd stop the ball. Your fate, and your team's score, depended on your concentration and courage. Nothing girls did could compare with it.”

It is not just body that allows someone to tackle someone but also the soul or spirit, the very energy of the body that allows one to take down their opponent. Her gender is not what determines the tackle but the will and spirit of the person. The last bit of the quote is tinged with irony when Dillard says, “Nothing girls did could compare…” yet she is a girl and she does it, she tackles people.

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