While I Was Gone Essay, Research Paper
While I Was Gone was written by Sue Miller in 1999. The book was published by Alfred A. Knope, Inc in New York. This novel belonged in the genre of Fiction. The novel was relayed in memory when Jo was remembering her days with Eli and everyone in the house. This was about middle age and how people can get stir crazy. If someone?s life is familiar and comfortable for too long, he/she starts to yearn for something more. When that opportunity comes along he/she will be so startled that he/she jumps at the chance. Jo Becker thought she had gotten rid of this desire to do different and exciting things. When a man from Jo?s past arrived in her present life she was startled at first. Then she began to feel restless with her life because of a possibility of a new chapter in her life beginning. Jo went for this chance and almost ruined her life, as she had known it for so long. During this struggle she learned many lessons on life.
While I Was Gone was written in the first person. Sue Miller chose to write the novel from this perspective to get the reader more into Jo?s character. Sue could not have titled the book While I Was Gone if she had written in third person. If a reader reads a novel that is in first person they feel connected with that character. When something bad happened to Jo, the reader felt her pain. Some readers may have had emotions towards Jo that weren?t what Jo was feeling. First person is also easier for writers to get into. Sue Miller only had to tell the story from Jo?s perspective and did not have to worry about anything beyond her vision. This was what made the readers connect with Jo so much.
Throughout Jo?s life she ran. She ran away as a child, she ran away as a young adult, and at this point in her life she just wanted to run again. It seemed like the affair was just her unknowing way. Jo and Eli were similar. They both had something that they were holding in. They were going to explode if they didn?t tell someone. They both made a mistake; they shared the information with the person it would hurt the most. Everyone has things they need to think about and some of those things are better kept private. Jo was someone who hadn?t looked at her life with a great deal of care; she was a person of action. She was a very decisive person. That was what made Jo appealing. It was also what made it hard for people around her who cared for her deeply, to feel close to her at times. Jo was a secretive person, though she didn?t do it on purpose. Her theory was that if it happened in the past, it was not important enough for her to share with the people in her life. She thought the information would only hurt the people she loved and completely unnecessary. Her loved ones felt differently when they found out about her past. They felt alienated and deceived. It took Jo a while to recover from the mournful eyes of her loved ones.
Jo changed a great deal throughout the novel. At first she was not content in her life with her first husband. Then she reached out and changed her personality and identity completely. When one of her close friends died in that new life, she returned to her old life. It was almost like she was being repressed into a normal life. She divorced her first husband and remarried. Jo had three lovely daughters and a committed husband. After her 3 daughters grew up, she started to get antsy and fled back to her old life. She was crippled when it didn?t work out and went crawling back to Daniel in sorrow. Jo had to live with her mistake for the rest of her life. They will never fully go away and there will always be something standing in the way of complete happiness with Daniel. You can forgive, but it was impossible to forget.
Daniel was a constant in Jo?s life. He was always the steady rock that she could fall back on. Daniel dealt with Jo?s inconsistencies exceptionally well. When Jo committed adultery Daniel fell apart because, in his eyes the attempt was as horrifying as the act itself. In Jo?s eyes, the attempt didn?t count. Daniel was incredibly wounded by what Jo did because he felt content with her and was not restless or questioning his life. Daniel was a priest and took these matters seriously. Jo was very confident of Daniel?s love. She never stopped to second guess his actions and his commitment. It seems as though she was taking advantage of his patience, love, and devotion.
Daniel?s approach to life was, we can talk this through, and we can work this through. This gave him a distancing quality from Jo and his life at home. Daniel was a bit of a workaholic, at times it seemed that he loved his work more than his family. This was because Daniel was as committed to his family as to God. Daniel was consistent throughout the novel, until Jo committed adultery. He was unable to speak or look at her. Daniel brought himself around to forgiveness, but only after he had fully expressed to Jo the damage she had done.
Eli was the antagonist of the novel. When he was brought upon the scene, havoc was raised. He interrupted Jo and Daniel?s marriage. Eli was the man from Jo?s past. In a time before Daniel, Jo lived with him in a house of friends. Eli and Jo shared something traumatic that bonded them and the entire house together forever. When Eli reappeared upon the scene, Jo felt like a part of her was reborn. Even before Eli appeared, she was feeling restless. When Eli came into the picture, an opportunity arose for her to act upon her restlessness. Jo took that chance and ran like hell. When this failed, she ran back to her husband in tears. Jo needed to be forgiven and so she put that burden on her husband.
The novel began with Jo and her husband on a boat. Every Monday they took a day off together. Since their three daughters had grown up, they had time to themselves. Her husband, Daniel, was fishing and she was sitting in the boat relaxing. All of a sudden she got an uneasy feeling and didn?t really know how to name it. ?I was abruptly and most intensely, sharply aware of all the aspects of life surrounding me, and yet of feeling neither part of it nor truly separate from it. Somehow impartial, unattached- an observer. Yet sentient of it all. Deeply sentient, in fact. But to no apparent purpose.? (4) Jo continued to have this feeling. She felt content with her life, yet she wanted something more exciting. Jo could live with her life, but that?s not what she wanted from life, she wanted excitement. When Eli reappeared in Jo?s life she saw an opportunity for a new chapter in her life to begin. He made her feel like she was alive again. With Daniel it had always been the same thing for years and she was craving something new. . . someone new.
Within the first few chapters Jo has relived for us, her life before Daniel. She ran out on the marriage and the life her parents wanted for her, and escaped for one beautiful, idyllic year. This life was bohemian and romantic. Jo lived under an assumed name in a rambling group house in Cambridge. She grew especially close to one of the group members, Dana. No one had ever taken much attention to Jo throughout her life. When Dana seemed to be intrigues by her, Jo was very attracted to her. The two became extremely close. One day, Jo returned to the house after an evening at work. She came home to find Dana in a pool of blood. The killer was never found and within months, the group members disbanded.
On Jo?s way home to her former husband she ran into a nice man, Daniel. Jo was attracted to him, but she was still legally married. Once she returned home, she left her husband, this time legally and for good. She got her doctorate in veterinary medicine. A few years later, Jo still thought about Daniel. She looked him up, and within a year they were married. The two of them had three girls. The girls grew up, moved out, and it was just the two of them. Everything was going fine in their lives until Jo began to feel restless.
Eli came into Jo?s life at the perfect time. The two of them met through Jo?s veterinary practice. Jo was feeling restless and was yearning for something more from life. The two of them began to talk. They talked about the past and the present, but mostly about the past. They dug into Dana?s death. Jo started to think about the possibility of an affair with Eli. One evening they met at a hotel. Eli and Jo both had different expectations and intentions that night. Jo wanted to get a room and Eli wanted to talk. Eli ended up confessing to murder. Eli thought he could confide in Jo and that she would forgive him. Forgiveness was what he was looking for. Eli believed the point of them meeting up again, later in life, was for this confession. Jo did not react as he planned. She was shocked and ran out of the restaurant.
Jo drove back home to her husband and confessed everything. Once Daniel opened the door she blurted out, ?? The real reason I went to Boston was to meet Eli.? And watched as his eager, loving expression utterly transformed.? Daniel was upset beyond belief. He was a preacher and believed that the thought of adultery was nearly as bad as the actual act. Jo and Daniel barely spoke for weeks. Jo went to the police three weeks later and reported what Eli had confessed. The police talked to Eli, who denied anything ever happening. It would be his word against her word and since neither one had proof, the police dismissed it.
Jo took time out from her life with Daniel and stayed with her mother. When Jo returned, Daniel took some time as well. This time was for them to think. Jo thought that Daniel and her might split up, but when Daniel came home he said he forgave her and they could move on. Daniel had to give up a hardness in him to yield to her. He had always been the one to do the forgiving and he returned to this position. There was a certain distance between them, even after he forgave. Jo learned to accept that and to give him his space. She made this change unintentionally, yet she had to pay the price. Daniel could forgive her but he could not forget. There were times when Jo knew he was thinking about it and sadness overcomes them both. This was the decision that the two of them made; it was the decision to be together despite it all. They shall live with that decision for the rest of their lives.
Sue Miller was emphasizing the idea of what we make of what we?ve done. Some of it was what we show of ourselves to other people, what we needed to show, and what was best kept private. Jo had a difficult time differentiating between what she showed of herself, what she needed to show (for the benefit of others), and what was best kept private about herself. Jo needed to show her daughters more about who she was in her past. This would have made it easier for them to understand and love her, despite her flaws. The potential affair was something that Jo needed to keep private about herself. She put her husband and daughter through unnecessary turmoil. This was something that might have killed her inside, if she had not let it out. That would have been her punishment, instead she took the easy way out. Jo told her husband about the potential affair, knowing how upset he would be. At the same time she knew that he would forgive her and that was what she needed to get over it. This novel was about forgiveness and the human impulse we have to connect with someone else. The impulse to have that other person say, ?I love you. No matter what. I love you.?
This novel was written to set people thinking. It should disturb them, in a good way. More questions should be raised from an interesting book than should be answered. A book is a way of speculating about life, a way of asking yourself questions that you hope reverberate in the reader. The reader should ask himself questions, maybe even answer them for himself.
Blood was a recurring image. The first time it appeared was in a scene where Jo was starting to drift away from her first husband. She was working at a bar and there was a brawl. Blood got spattered all over her. At this point the blood was exciting. She went home that evening with the blood still on her and she didn?t wash before she got into bed with her husband. This was the introduction to her new life of adventure. When Jo found Dana bleeding to death she was of course, horrified. In the final related image, Daniel throws a tomato in anger, and again she gets splattered. Jo has her back to Daniel; he picks up a tomato, and throws it near her. When Jo turned around he simply states ?It was rotten,? (220) and walks out.
At the scene in the bar she took pleasure in feeling that she was experiencing something raw, tough, and real. When Dana was bleeding to death Jo felt the real blood. This terrible blood of someone she loved and couldn?t help showed her some of the risk of being in life. It showed her that life and death is not something you can necessarily control. With the tomato and Daniel it depicted a near-murderous rage in a safe relationship, which was the one she had with Daniel. Jo was able to perceive Daniel?s ability to choose whether to hurt her or not, and of course he didn?t. Daniel wanted to show Jo how angry he was, but he was also capable of showing that without hurting her, without injuring her with his anger. This is exactly what Eli did with Dana. He was not able to control his anger towards Dana and he kills her. All Eli meant to do was express his anger and he killed Dana with it. This was the difference between Eli and Daniel. Daniel had control and Eli had none. Eli had no control on killing Dana or in telling Jo about the murder.