Archeology, by Jennifer Egan

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“Archeology” is a short fiction story written by Jennifer Egan relaying her dreams and aspirations as a child and how they change through adolescence and early adulthood as she learns more about herself and forms her identity.

As a child, Egan desires to be a surgeon, then in adolescent years discovers a particular aversion to blood and switches her pursuits to archeology, as that field is very popular at the time. Many pivotal discoveries made the press in the early seventies and inspired her young mind with visions of adventure in exotic places. She tells of her youthful naivety, when during her senior year in high school, she wrote to several prestigious graduate programs offering her services to their archeology digs, thinking that she could get paid to explore in the upcoming summer. A reality check comes though, in the form of the single reply letter she receives enlightening her that graduate students pay them to go on digs and she is nowhere near adequate for the position. Still not giving up on her dream, Egan uses her hard earned money to pay for participation in a far less illustrious excavation venture for three weeks in Kampsville, Illinois. The pitifully small town is far removed from the extraordinary places she envisioned exploring and investigating through the years. The dig itself is anticlimactic to her preconceived notions of archeology in that she is allotted only one square metre of earth and not allowed to dig or even sit down. She has to squat down and painstakingly scrape away the soil with a scalpel in the sweltering summer sun. She sticks it out though, and completes her three week stint in Illinois, resigned to the fact that the life of an archeologist, just as that of a surgeon, was not her preferre...

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...l with many of the realities of the profession. Egan’s excitement for life and discovery are evident and as I said before contagious; she makes you want to get out and pursue your own dreams. I suppose if one had no dreams or ambitions, this story would not have much meaning. That would be tragically sad.

When researching for another paper, I found a quote from Karen Ravn, on

ThinkExist.com, that I feel perfectly and eloquently exemplifies what this story said to me-

“Only as high as I can reach can I grow,

only as far as I seek I can go,

only as deep as I look I can see,

Only as much as I dream can I be.”

The author effectively delivers a message of important truths through a humorous look at her own personal experience. I really enjoyed this story and would recommend others to read it. I now am interested in reading more of Jennifer Egan’s work.

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