The Year of Magical Thinking
full title · The Year of Magical Thinking
author · Joan Didion
type of work · Memoir/Essay
genre · Memoir, Grief literature
language · English
time and place written · New York, October 2004 to January 2005
date of first publication · October 4, 2005
publisher · Alfred A. Knopf
narrator · Joan Didion
point of view · First person
tone · Introspective, melancholy, matter-of-fact
tense · Present
setting (time) · December 2003 through December 2004; various times in flashback
setting (place) · New York City and Los Angeles; various locations in flashback
protagonist · Joan Didion
major conflict · Journalist Joan Didion attempts to come to terms with her grief over the sudden death of her husband, John, and her adult daughter Quintana’s serious illness.
rising action · Didion must cope with the sudden shock and aftermath of her husband John’s death while caring for her ailing daughter, Quintana.
climax · Quintana collapses and undergoes neurosurgery, requiring Didion to fly to Los Angeles to be with her daughter while still reeling from the death of her husband.
falling action · As Quintana’s health begins to improve, Joan Didion begins to come to terms with the feelings of helplessness and insanity that dominated the year after her husband’s death.
themes · Grief as a state of temporary mental illness, the pathology of grief in American culture, the role of family relationships in shaping individual identity
motifs · Magical thinking, the vortex effect, the ordinary instant
symbols · Waves, flowers
foreshadowing · After she first tells Quintana about her father’s death, Didion reveals that she will have to tell her daughter about her father’s death three times before Quintana absorbs the news.
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