An American Childhood

by Annie Dillard

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What does Anne Dillard's chase in An American Childhood suggest about creating a meaningful life?

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In this passage about being chased after throwing snowballs, Dillard emphasizes the value of passion combined with perseverance. A relevant thesis statement would note that she enjoyed the experience of being chased because the man’s energetic determination equaled her own. Dillard suggests that refusing to give up is a key element of the quest for a meaningful life.

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Annie Dillard writes convincingly about throwing snowballs and being chased by a man whose car she and her friends hit. An appropriate thesis related to this chase would emphasize that the man chasing her showed as much energy and determination as she did, which caused her to re-evaluate her opinion...

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of adults.

Dillard draws an analogy between this experience and playing football—two activities in which she, as a child, was the only girl in a group of boys. When the children bombarded cars with snowballs, they did not anticipate that any of the drivers would seek revenge. One of the men whose car they hit, however, was so infuriated that he left his car and pursued them. Singling out Annie, the man relentlessly followed her through a maze-like set of obstacles until hecaught up with her.

Although Dillard was only seven years old, she had already decided that there was a clear dividing line between children and adults. The ferocity that characterized her involvement in football was something she associated exclusively with children. Football mattered to her not only because of the satisfaction of winning, but even more for the exhilaration of the contest. Devoting total energy to reaching one’s goal thrilled her, and she associated it with playing football:

[Y]ou have to fling yourself at what you're doing, you have to point yourself, forget yourself, aim, dive.

In this case, however, the thrill came from the chase and, to her surprise, it was a grown-up, not another child, who most vividly displayed these characteristics:

[H]e had chased us passionately without giving up and so he had caught us.

Learning that passionate commitment and perseverance are qualities that continue into adulthood provides a solid base for engaging in a quest for a meaningful life.

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Regarding the passage "The Chase" from An American Childhood, what is a good thesis about what Annie Dillard valued so much about the chase, and what it suggests about the quest to create a meaningful life?

To come up with a suitable thesis for these questions concerning "The Chase" from An American Childhood by Annie Dillard, it is important to analyze the passage carefully. It starts with a description of Dillard playing football with a group of boys. She writes about the difficulty of tackling an opposing player. She realizes that is essential to fully commit to the tackle. "If you hesitated in fear, you would miss and get hurt" but "if you flung yourself wholeheartedly at the back of his knees" you might have a chance of stopping the ball.

She then tells of a winter's day when she is seven years old, and together with some slightly older boys she is throwing snowballs at passing cars. Unbelievably, one of the cars stops, the driver gets out, and begins to pursue Dillard and one of the boys. For block after block the chase continues. However, instead of being frightened, Dillard experiences profound joy. She writes:

It was an immense discovery, pounding into my hot head with every sliding, joyous step, that this ordinary adult evidently knew what I thought only children who trained at football knew: that you have to fling yourself at what you're doing, you have to point yourself, forget yourself, aim, dive.

When the man finally catches the children, despite imagining all sorts of tortures that the man could put her through, Dillard concludes that "if in that snowy backyard the driver of the black Buick had cut off our heads, Mikey's and mine, I would have died happy."

Why would Dillard have made such a statement? This brings us back to what Dillard valued about the chase and what it suggests about the quest for a meaningful life. Her point, and the thesis of this passage, is that profound joy can only be found in going all-out and living life to the full. Only then can someone experience the joy of a life well-lived.

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