An American Childhood

by Annie Dillard

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How does Dillard introduce the setting in "An American Childhood," and what aspects are integral to her growth as a keen observer?

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Dillard seems to have had a typical, idyllic suburban middle-class upbringing. This might seem unremarkable, but what is remarkable is the way that Dillard, even as a child, interpreted her surroundings. The ability to identify with other people at such a young age hinted at her eventual success as a writer.

There are two main aspects of the setting that are instrumental in Dillard's ability to register her surroundings and contemplate them. The first is the relationship she has with the neighborhood kids. She notices they are all different and have distinct personalities, and she wonders what makes them tick.

The second, arguably more important aspect is her parents. As she grows up, she realizes that they, like all people, are deeply flawed. This discovery of an essential similarity between all human beings is very influential on Dillard's growth as a person and as a writer.

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