Friday, January 9, 2009

If I hadn't read Girl with a Pearl Earring when I did, I may have turned out to be a non-thinking sop.

So just a little info for this post, I had to write a personal essay for my English 251 class on a literary experience I've had. This was the first thing that came to mind, so I thought I'd write about it and change people's opinions of what could be seen as a literary experience. Here goes:

My rebellion stage never really kicked in until about my sophomore year in high school. It took me a little longer than other delinquents my age to say no to my mom's face (though I had been doing it in my head for a lot longer). I was too naive to realize that rebellion has a sweet sense of freedom that can't be obtained by following the rules. Reading had always been an outlet for me and helped me cope with the demands of my mom, but I never thought that it could aid in my fight for freedom from her tyrannical reign.
As I began to realize her expectations were ridiculous and much more rigorous than what my friends were going through, my will to become a good child began to break down quickly. With this new resolve to become an individual and no longer stay a sheep, my love of reading grew. Instead of reading after school or at breaks, I slowly began to read during class and lunch, and sometimes I would completely ignore my friends and retreat to the school library if I didn't want to sit and chat. The only problem with my school's library was that each book was considered outdated in 1970. I think there were only 2 books that I ended up checking out that I found enjoyable- one of them being Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. No book has ever aided my fight for rebellion more so than Chevalier's at that time.
I remember bringing it home and going straight to my room where I can vaguely recall reading until my mom came home, skipping out on practicing my piano (which I never did anyway, so why start now?), completely ignoring my mom's request for me to get in the kitchen to help her make dinner, again ignoring her, and even trying so much as to lock her out of my room but realizing that she would bother me more later if I didn't do what she asked right then. Up until that point I had never felt such a need to defy the rules and fall just short of saying "screw you" to her. It felt good. Even though I finally gave in and did what she wanted, I couldn't help smiling to myself with satisfaction that this was a part of my life that I could control and enjoy- not only because I had found a book that I wanted to never put down, but because I was making my mom so angry and blue in the face with rage because I had realized that I didn't have to conform.
That night, after she went to bed, I got my flashlight out and began where I had left off. Chevalier's potent imagery, deep characters, and moving storyline left me enraptured and felt as if I was being sucked into the story with each page that I turned. I have pretty slow reading skills mainly because I like to savor everything that I read and pick up on details that I would otherwise miss, so when I got to the end of the book I knew that several hours had passed. Yes. It was now 3:30. And I had seminary at 6:20. Which meant I had to be up in 2 hours or so. Great. But I felt accomplished. This was the first time that I had ever stayed up late into the night to finish reading a book because I couldn't put it down. With that one night I started a chain reaction of rebellious events that were soon to follow. My mindset has changed forever.
Today, I still stay up late into the night if I've found a book that captures me so much that I feel it's actually happening. I still continue to ignore my mom when I go back home for the holidays if I'm reading (and usually I am because it's the only way I can keep my sanity around my family), and I still feel a little flicker of rebellion each time I purposely tell her no and/or ignore her. The only thing that's changed is that I set my alarm clock before I start reading before bed so that I don't have to experience the guilt that comes with finding out what time it is. Reading Girl with a Pearl Earring saved my sanity.

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