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To Hell With Dying as an Autobiography

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To Hell With Dying as an Autobiography

When reading fiction, one can begin to wonder how much of a gap there is between the story the narrator is telling and the actual events that occurred to make the author decide to write the story. In Alice Walker’s "To Hell With Dying," one could say that this story is basically auto- biographical. Although some people may have thought that "To Hell With Dying" was completely fiction, evidence from the story and other sources suggest otherwise. The love the narrator feels towards Mr. Sweet parallels with actual events that took place in Alice Walker’s life.

In the preface of Donna Haisty Winchell’s book Alice Walker, it is revealed that Alice Walker was "blinded in one eye at age eight by a careless shot from a brother’s BB gun" (ix). The shot left a scar that bothered Walker immensely. Winchell also writes that because of the BB shot wound Walker was "feeling ugly and outcast" (ix). This description of Walker’s accident creates the image of a young girl who has no feeling of self worth. In the story, however, Mr. Sweet is very fond of the narrator. He used to call her "his princess," and "he made [her feel] simply outrageously devastating at the blazing age of eight and a half" (1144). Perhaps this description of how Mr. Sweet makes the narrator feel pretty symbolizes the way Alice Walker felt about Mr. Sweet in real life. Alice Walker was eight when she got shot with the BB gun, and the narrator is eight and a half when Mr. Sweet is telling her how pretty she is. Although Alice Walker only has vague memories of the real Mr. Sweet, she does remember that he never stopped talking about the things that upset him. Mr. Sweet’s talking and singing made Walker feel good. In Walker...

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...e an artist as well. Walker explains in Alice Walker. "The love happened, and that is the essence of the story" (qtd. in Winchell, 12). Walker wrote "To Hell With Dying" in order to thank Mr. Sweet for what he contributed to her life. Winchell acknowledges that "the story is her [Walker’s] wish that she could have returned the favor" (13).

Works Cited

Walker, Alice. "Remembering Mr. Sweet." The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Walker, Alice. "To Hell With Dying." The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.

Winchell, Donna Haisty. Alice Walker. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992.

Works Consulted

Short Story Criticisms. Vol. 5. Detroit: Gale Publishers, 1990.

Contemporary Literary Criticisms. Vols. 46, 58. Detroit: Gale Publishers, 1990.
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