Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on September 9, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 581

The interior life is often stupid. Its egoism blinds it and deafens it; its imagination spins out ignorant tales, fascinated. It fancies that the western wind blows on the Self, and leaves fall at the feet of the Self for a reason, and people are watching. A mind risks real ignorance for the sometimes paltry prize of an imagination enriched. The trick of reason is to get the imagination to seize the actual world—if only from time to time.

Dillard analyzes her “interior life” throughout the memoir, especially how it develops as she ages. In this quote, she explains the important moment in her “interior life” when she realizes she can use reason to oppose her wild and vivid imagination. As a young child, Dillard is petrified by what she believes to be a monster in her bedroom, but upon realizing that the “monster” is the light from a car outside on the street, she discovers that she can use reason in addition to imagination. 

Illustration of PDF document

Download An American Childhood Study Guide

Subscribe Now
What can we make of the inexpressible joy of children? It is a kind of gratitude, I think—the gratitude of the ten-year-old who wakes to her own energy and the brisk challenge of the world. You thought you knew the place and all its routines, but you see you hadn’t known. Whole stacks at the library held books devoted to things you knew nothing about. The boundary of knowledge receded, as you poked about in books, like Lake Erie’s rim as you climbed its cliffs. And each area of knowledge disclosed another, and another. Knowledge wasn’t a body, or a tree, but instead air, or space, or being—whatever pervaded, whatever never ended and fitted into the smallest cracks and the widest space between stars.

As Dillard matures and “wakes up” to the world around her, she no longer sees it as the backdrop to her life; everywhere she looks, there is always more to be studied, researched, and discovered. The world is an inexhaustible source of entertainment and excitement that she pursues through reading. When she is bored by her “exterior life,” Dillard escapes into her studies and reading to make life interesting. 

What I sought in books was imagination. It was...

(The entire section contains 581 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this An American Childhood study guide. You'll get access to all of the An American Childhood content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Quotes
  • Critical Essays
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial



Critical Essays