An American Childhood 1

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In the excerpt from An American Childhood by Annie Dillard, the reader receives an intimate passage written from a daughter’s point of view of her eccentric mother. Through a unique string of constructive anecdotes and a warm, lighthearted tone, Dillard develops her readers understanding of the qualities she sees in her mother and her positive outlook on those qualities. Though a single quality is not explicit, the passage provides implicit evidence of her mother’s wit, commendable sense of humor and unceasing energy.

Perhaps the most evident admirable quality depicted in An American Childhood is her mother’s fearless wit. Dillard’s mother, Pam, values knowledge and instilled that value in her children and in those around her through various verbal challenges. She is an avid believer in that there is always more to learn. The audience first grasps this when Pam challenges her young daughter to spell words such as “poinsettia” and “sherbet” as a humbling reminder that her children didn’t know it all just yet (Dillard 133). In addition to challenging others, Pam found delight in being met in these challenges, for example when Pam asks the doctor if she will ever be able to play the piano again after surgery for her eye—expecting pseudo sympathy, when the doctor unexpectedly has none of it and instead calls his patient out (133). Dillard continues providing example of her mother’s opinionated wit through anecdotes such as when Pam provokes question in the marketing and construction of various items such as a corkscrew, and decides to draw up her own, superior version (135). Through the given instances, the reader grows conscious of the astounding intelligence Dillard’s mother possesses.

In addition to wit, Dillard exemplifies her mother’s excellent sense of humor. Dillard mentions several occasions in which her mother pulls pranks for the sake of flustering others; such as handing the phone when it was the wrong number to one of her children, telling them to...
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