The Notion of the "I" in Literature

The Notion of the "I" in Literature

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Many authors anticipate the use of "I" in their works. Often, it helps them express their point to the reader. Sometimes though, writers want to talk about their personal issues but do not want to say it directly or reveal themselves. Therefore, they use the "I" in their work to hide behind it while putting across their point. David Sedaris and Sylvia Plath use "I" in their books in different ways, although some of the issues they wrote about are somewhat similar. Both of the authors wrote about the mental disorders that they had and how their lives were affected by them. Another topic that is discussed is the influence of their family members and friends on the writers.

In his book "Naked", David Sedaris describes his life and particularly, his obsessive disorders. As a child, he had obsessions about many things. For example, he would count steps from his school to his house, peppers and other things, he would make sure the kitchen appliances and objects on his desk were placed in the right order, he would lick and touch light bulbs, doorknobs and mailboxes, and so on. The character of the book is a young boy who is dealing with his mind, which tells him to do all those crazy things. There are also issues with his family members. For example, his father had a major effect on David Sedaris. He hates his father because of the way he treated his mother. Sedaris does not even want to talk to his dad because of that. The character of the book is David Sedaris himself. He uses "I" in the book to talk about his life and experiences. Sedaris uses "I" in the simple, direct way without hiding or changing his character. This is an example of an autobiographical use of "I."

Sylvia Plath wrote a book called "The Bell Jar." The character in this book, Esther Greenwood, is a talented, smart, brave and daring young woman who is suffering from a mental illness. Her insane mind is not letting her live a normal life. She struggles and eventually decides to end her life. After an attempt of suicide, Esther ends up in a mental institution. She was a gifted writer but when her illness started to take over her mind, she could not write, read or sleep anymore: "I hadn't slept for seven nights" (The Bell Jar, p.

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127). She was very scared because writing was the one thing she loved and was good at. The fear that she would not be able to write anymore was one of the reasons for her decision of suicide.

Esther behaved unusually in reaction to the society that she lived in. At the time when "The Bell Jar" was written, women and especially female writers were treated differently. They were not supposed to have affairs before marriage; they could not stand up for themselves; and so on. Esther lived ahead of her time, and therefore, did everything against what the society told her to do. She wanted to lose her virginity before marriage because it was not a problem for men to have affairs before marriage. In fact, she was very scared of getting married because she wanted to have a career. While all the girls at that time went to college for only one reason - to find a good husband - she did not want to be like those girls. Esther applied for a writers' workshop but did not get in. After that, we see a major change in her health. It was very important for her to get into this course and she was very disappointed when she found out that she was not accepted: "All through June the writing course had stretched before me like a bright, safe bridge over the dill gulf of summer. Now I saw it totter and dissolve..." (The Bell Jar, p.114) That was the point when she started getting sick and when her illness started to take over her mind. The character of the book represents the author. Sylvia Plath uses "I" of "The Bell Jar" to express herself. She did not make the book an autobiography, but most of the facts are taken from her own life. In the book, Plath revealed what she experienced as a young writer with a mental disorder. Her ideas were much ahead of the society's beliefs and she lived according to them.

As we can see, the "I's" in these books are used differently. Unlike Sylvia Plath, David Sedaris uses it in a direct and autobiographical way. Sedaris wrote about his growing up and his character is Davis Sedaris himself. His "I" is even named David Sedaris. On the contrary, Sylvia Plath does not use her "I" in such a direct way. She talks about her experiences but with an extent of exaggeration. Although we do not know for sure, I think she changed her story so that it does not sound like an autobiography. However, her "I" still has the same ideas as the author. The "I" still thinks like the author and goes through the same mental issues as Sylvia Plath.

Both of these writers talk about mental disorders that they had. Plath's disorder is more depressing and lead to a bad end. Although Sedaris' disorders are not pleasant, he describes them in a very funny and amusing way. The two authors wrote two completely different books about similar issues - mental disorders. The voices of the books are also different. The "I" of "The Bell Jar" is very trusting. It sounds very real and we do not doubt the reality of the events that are described in that book. Conversely, when reading "Naked", the reader very often would stop and think whether all the things that David did are true.

In my opinion, the "I's" in these books are somewhat similar. Both of the authors had some problems in their lives and in their minds, and wanted to share them with the readers. Since the "I's" represent the authors, we can say that the "I's" had similar issues as well. The difference is that David Sedaris was able to see the humor in his disorders and Sylvia Plath could not. In fact, she could not even deal with them and unfortunately, ended her life at a young age. In this essay, I described two different examples of how the "I" can be used in literary works. It is an important issue in literature. It is used to emphasize on a certain point or even change things so that the author's point is clearer to the reader.
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