An American Childhood Essay Research Paper

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An American Childhood Essay, Research Paper “Waking Up to the Reality of a Personally Fulfilling Future” Throughout Dillard’s, An American Childhood, she describes the distinct gender roles of men and those of women in the 1950’s. Dillard tells us of the explicitly different duties and responsibilities men and women had. The influence which society, specifically adults, has on Annie is extremely powerful and ultimately acts as a guiding light into her future. This influence eventually drives her to desire knowledge about why society has structured such gender roles. Annie specifically questions why women of her era allow themselves to be subservient to men, and therefore intentionally further affirm the notion that women are not as capable as men. She does not

intuitively believe that she shall feel satisfied pursuing the envisioned mold society and generations past have created for the women of her time. The ultimate effect of Annie’s reaction to society’s pervasive influence is her realization that a future containing personal fulfillment shall only be attained through the pursuit of her own intuitive and conscious decisions and actions. From early childhood, the society which Dillard grows up in, attempts to shape and mold young boys and girls in hope of producing cookie cutter images of their elders. It is the adult portion of society, which holds the dominating influence over children. Dillard writes, “Here we all were, boys and girls, plunged by our conspiring elders, into a bewildering social truth that we were meant to

make each others acquaintance.” (87) inferring that it is the adults who are in steady control of the path children are proceeding along. Young minds are like brand new sponges; obliviously willing to soak up anything and everything that surrounds them. Children are extremely impressionable and therefore apt to do and think as their role models, adults do. Dillard writes about the feelings encompassing the initial experience of a child’s awakening process. This process offers children fresh insights and new ideas about the changing and growing world that they can choose to be a part of. She shares her own experience here: “A child is asleep. Her private life unwinds inside her skin and skull; only as she sheds childhood, first one decade, and then another, can she locate

the actual, historical stream, see the setting of her dreaming private life-the nation, the city, the neighborhood, the house where the family lives-as an actual project underway, a project living people willed, and made well or failed, and are still making, herself among them. I breathed the air of history all unaware, and walked oblivious through its littered layers,” (74). Her indication of children being “asleep” refers to their inability to perceive all of life’s true possibilities. If they fail to grow and change along with the world around them, they shall fall victim to society’s plan for their future. In Annie’s environment, society’s plan for each child’s future is determined by one specific characteristic, gender. It is through Annie’s persistent

questioning of society’s standards and structures that she is able to break from the norm and pursue a life that is personally fulfilling. To better understand how and why Annie chose to pursue her own path, distinct from societies intentions, it is essential to look closely at society’s powerfully influential role. In Pittsburgh, during the 1950’s, females were generally expected to grow up to be mothers and housewives. Their anticipated duties included such things as tending to the children, cleaning the house, cooking for the family, socially interacting with other women, etc. A sketch of a women’s place in society becomes evident through Annie’s portrayal her mothers everyday tasks and responsibilities. All of what Mrs. Dillard undertakes is domestic. Annie confirms