the age of twelve, before I had had one full year of formal schooling,
I had . . . a conviction that the meaning of living came only when
one was struggling to wring a meaning out of meaningless suffering.
At the age of twelve I had an attitude toward life that was to .
. . make me skeptical of everything while seeking everything, tolerant
of all and yet critical . . . that could only keep alive in me that
enthralling sense of wonder and awe in the face of the drama of
human feeling which is hidden by the external drama of life.
These passages follow Ella’s second
paralytic stroke at the end of Chapter 3.
Wright illustrates many of his major ideas and beliefs here. Principal
among these is his all-important conviction that life becomes meaningful
only when we struggle to make it so. This perspective gives no intrinsic
significance to life, but asserts that we can be noble when we try
to make life significant in our own way. This point of view recalls
the thinking of existentialist philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre,
whom Wright later read and admired. In this passage Wright also
emphasizes the paradoxical nature of his character: he is tolerant
yet critical, skeptical yet seeking, timid yet headstrong, and modest
yet blindingly intelligent.