A Reader-Response Criticism of How I Learned to Drive Essay

A Reader-Response Criticism of How I Learned to Drive Essay

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How I Learned to Drive is the story of Li’l Bit’s teenage life. The 17 year old Li'l Bit functions as the narrator of the story, following her life between 11 and 17 years old. The story mostly revolves around Li’l Bit and Uncle Peck, the man who molests and sexualizes Li’l Bit throughout the story. The story makes the story itself into a story as a result of the narratorial and dissociative structure. The life of Li’l Bit, and even her description of events that are close to her in the present, is structured like a play and her running commentary is filled with humor, satire, etc (like she is a comedian making a joke in poor taste). This manner of narration implies Li’l Bit has an attitude of dissociation, or a detachment from from the events that she describes to the audience. The act of molestation is itself dramatized in such a way that it takes on the appearance of fantasy, losing with its reality its moral weight, and the molester, Uncle Peck, is not only a character of great irony but also of great ambiguity. He is never condemned for his actions; rather he is sympathized with, and he is unwittingly supported by his family. To truly understand How I Learned to Drive, one must not look to the text itself for answers, as the metastory and story are both different fictions (which hampers the use of psychological, social, and formalist critical approaches) and one may not look to an underlying moral message, as the entirety of the text is pervaded by moral ambiguity. It is in the act of interpreting our response by which How I Learned to Drive may be understood. How I Learned to Drive gave me a sense of religious optimism, amusement, anger, and bewilderment.

During my reading of How I Learned to Drive, I was surprised by ...


... middle of paper ...


... comes from the moral ambiguity and the structural discontinuity of the play, which makes me uncomfortable, as I prefer rigid structures and discernible moral conflict in texts. Overall, I liked How I Learned to Drive and it does touch on some big issues in everyday life (how moral areas are not always black and white and how not everyone’s life turns out perfect) but there were some things in the play that hurt my appreciation for it.



Works Cited

Romans. English Standard Version. N.p.: CrossWay Bibles, 2001. BibleGateway. Web. 24 Apr.
2014.
Vogel, Paula. How I Learned to Drive. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Spencer
Richardson-Jones. 11th ed. New York: Norton., 2013. 2227-2267. Print.
Žižek, Slavoj. "Liberation Hurts: An Interview with Slavoj Žižek." Interview by Eric D. Rassmusen.
Electronic Book Review. N.p., 1 July 2004. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

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