Shadows of Night: The Fear of a Child

In Annie Dillard’s book, An American Child; chapter two describes the fear she had as a child, of the night shadows that would appear on her walls. Dillard was five years old and shared a bedroom with her little sister Amy, who was two at the time. When Dillard describes her little sister sleeping, I can picture her clearly in my mind. Dillard writes; “even at two she composed herself attractively with her sheet folded tidily, under her outstretched arm, her head laid lightly on an unwrinkled pillow, her thick curls spread evenly. (21) Another wonderful example of her descriptive writing is when she is telling of the “thing” that she is so afraid of at night in her bedroom. Dillard states that, “the damned thing entered the room by flattening itself against the open door and sliding in. It was transparent, luminous oblong; I could see the door whiten at its touch. ” (21) This “thing” that Dillard also refers to as “it” also had sounds of a “rising roar” (21) as it moved across her walls.

Dillard finally figured out that her “thing was a passing car whose windshield reflected the corner streetlight outside. ” (21) It wasn’t until she was outside one day, that she heard the familiar sound that she hears at night when the “thing” appears on her walls. Dillard’s writing shows how the human mind and imagination can exaggerate even the simplest things, until we can see in front of us what the true reality is.


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