The Year of Magical Thinking
Study Questions and Essay Topics
1. Joan Didion has been praised for her clear-eyed, analytical approach to emotionally challenging subjects, and criticized for being a cold, overly intellectual, emotionally disengaged writer. What elements of Didion’s writing style have inspired these reactions?
2. Over the course of the book, Didion goes from a passive state of grief to an active state of mourning. How does she document this shift?
3. On several occasions, Didion emphasizes that “information is control.” How do her beliefs change over the course of her year of magical thinking?
1. Magical thinking both helps Didion cope with her grief and prevents her from engaging with it directly. Select and analyze several instances of magical thinking, and analyze how they affect Didion’s grieving process.
2. How does Didion’s understanding of magical thinking evolve over the course of her book?
3. How does the vortex effect affect Didion’s recovery process? What role does memory play in the memoir?
4. After John’s death, Didion comes to understand the degree to which her identity was shaped by her relationship with John. How does John’s death force Didion to re-evaluate her identity?
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