The Imperfection of Perfection
In Anne Tyler’s “Teenage Wasteland,” the reader is given insight into the difficulty of parenting through Daisy’s desperate attempt to stop her son from his seemingly uncontrollable downward spiral. The paranoia of her “perfect” parenting techniques leads to the tainting of Donny’s innocence over time and eventually his mysterious disappearance at the end of the story. Through symbols of innocence and corruption, Tyler demonstrates the importance of keeping one’s head clear and focused while parenting, and that using common sense and logic is far more effective than relying on idealism and hope.
In the first three lines of the story, the reader is given a sense of Donny’s virtue during youth and how it has changed over time. The author states, “He used to have very blonde hairalmost whitecut shorter than other children so that on his crown a little cowlick always stood up to catch the light” (Tyler 188). This sentence speaks plenty about Donny’s youth. The color white is often used to represent purity, signifying Donny’s innocence during youth. In the same respect, he has a cowlick that “stood up to catch the light” (Tyler 188). The light is another symbol for purity. Stating that Donny is catching the light indicates that he is taking in purity, or in other words, staying innocent. The first line also references his head as a crown. A crown normally represents importance. Thus, this first sentence shows the importance of Donny’s innocence to his mother. She believes Donny is perfect. This purity is short lived, however, and Donny’s innocence is eventually tainted. The author writes, “As he grew older, his hair grew darker, and he wore it longer-past his collar even” (Tyler 188). No longer white, Donny’s hair is now dark. His dark hair symbolizes the mystery and mischief of Donny’s teenage years. This is also apparent through the title of the story when Tyler describes Donny’s teenage years as a “wasteland.” It states that...
Cited: Tyler, Anne. "Teenage Wasteland." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 12th ed. Boston: Longman, 2012. 188-95. Print.
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