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Vicky Litman Mrs.

Reynolds IB English HL 2 5th Period October 12th, 2011 Key Passage Analysis of God in the Doorway This key passage is from the essay God in the Doorway in Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard. This passage occurs towards the end of the essay and describes the authors reaction to the arrival of Santa Claus and her feelings about Santa Claus, Miss White, and God during her time following this meeting. Dillard uses this meeting and the following experiences as a revelation of the idea of God and of faith and consequently, the idea of risk taking. Dillard explores the idea that the more the author knows, the more vulnerable she is and as the story continues, the worth of this new knowledge is investigated. As the passage begins, Annie Dillard uses repetition when describing the reason why one might be afraid of Santa Claus. Using the words bad, good, and you frequently helps to dumb down such an intimidating essay to help the level of the obvious content meet the level of the writing. By writing this essay from the eyes of a child, Dillard is able to approach this difficult subject using simple language without seeming like she is questioning the intelligence of the reader. The repetition of the phrase, he knew when youd been good or bad, within the same two lines of the passage only emphasizes this idea as well as adds to the reasoning the narrator gives for fearing Santa Claus. As the passage continues and we are finally told that Santa Claus stood in the doorway, Dillard repeats this statement as to paint an image of the scenario for the reader and to reiterate the importance of this moment in the narrators life. The two sentences regarding Santa Claus in the doorway offer a great example of Dillards goal in this piece. Santa Claus stood in the doorway with night over his shoulder, letting in all of the cold air, represents a contrast between

the known and the unknown. The image created of the home and the doorway compared to the cold dark night is one of a familiar home vs. an unfamiliar vast darkness. In this image, Santa Claus is the person who stands between these two which represents the idea that one person or thing or idea or risk can be the difference between what is known and what is not known. Santa Claus stood in the doorway monstrous and bright, powerless, ringing a loud bell, only adds to this struggle between the known and the unknown and helps us to reach a conclusion about what this struggle means. Santa Claus is described as bright and monstrous but also powerless. Essentially, what this is saying is that depending on what we know and how we choose to embrace what we dont know, we can either be very powerful or completely powerless. The decision to take advantage of this potential power is up to us through our willingness to know more. As the story continues, the narrator is reflecting back on the night when Santa Claus came and how she now knows it was just Miss White, this new found knowledge for the reader only adds to the idea of the known vs. the unknown. She refers to this memory of Santa Claus as one that played a part in the making of Santa Claus, God, and Miss White an awesome, vulnerable, trinity. This reference of the trinity immediately causes the reader to relate this memory of Christmas to a purely religious experience. When Dillard ends that paragraph with the line, This is really a story about Miss White, this causes confusion for the reader as the story is called God in the Doorway, and not Miss White in the Doorway. Essentially, by saying that this story is really about Miss White, Dillard is ultimately calling Miss White God which only strengthens the concept of the trinity in this passage. The idea of the trinity is essential to the Catholic religion and represents in a huge part what is both known and unknown about religion. The idea of God in itself is a concept that can be argued by many but the trinity, for Catholics, is

known to be true. This idea of the narrator confusing God, Miss White, and Santa Claus as one is not only a play on the idea of the trinity but it is essential in realizing the downside of knowing too much. If it was unknown to the narrator that Miss White and Santa Claus were the same person, then the idea of this trinity would not have come about but at the same time this, awesome, vulnerable trinity, is just that, vulnerable. With the coming together of the three figures as one, the narrator must now see the view of God as someone who always knows when youd been bad or good. At the same time, God must be seen as someone who means no harm on earth, as Miss White is described later in the passage. The more that the narrator knows of these people, the more susceptible she is to be hurt by any or all of them. As the story continues, Dillard describes the narrators experiences with Miss White and how she liked her but at the same time, ran from her. This only adds to picture of a trinity that is both all knowing and awesome but so much to a point that fear is instilled. In the next paragraph when Miss White showed the author a magnifying glass, this idea of the struggle between the known and the unknown and feared is only heightened. As the view through the glass gives her a clearer view of skin, she is burned from the reflection of the sunlight. Her view, what she knows, is made clearer but at the same time she is hurt. The idea that the more you know, the more you are vulnerable is demonstrated in a very real and concrete way in this part of the passage. Throughout the beginning of the passage, Dillard uses short choppy sentences such as And I had been bad and I dont know who ate the cookies as a way of summing up each paragraph. These sentences add to her overall use of syntax to create the mood of the piece. The mood created by this is one of coming to quick and short conclusions as opposed to long thought out reasoning. It is a mood where the narrator believes that it is better to know little then to risk

pain. As the passage comes to a close, Dillard lengthens her sentences which reflects the narrators better understanding and perhaps changing mentality. As opposed to the fear of knowing too much, maybe it is worth it to know as much as possible, maybe it is not only worth it, but it is necessary. As she is openly reflecting in the passage, she realizes that it is she who misunderstood everything and let everybody down and she apologizes for running from that knowledge. To me, this is just an additional affirmation that she has been afraid of knowing too much and of being hurt. Although she may be still running from that knowledge, by the end of the passage she realizes that she must let Santa Claus through her doorway and be willing to experience knowledge and have faith in its worth in order to learn from it whether it be good or bad.

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