Discussion Of Narratives By Beard And Sedaris’ ‘Remembering My Childhood On The Continent Of Africa’

Beard, Sedaris and others create brilliant narratives. Each essay builds up in depth and provides a more comprehensive view of the writer’s life than a single essay.

Her memoir-essays use metaphor to compare and contrast. The reader can thus ascertain her truths while she writes them. Beard’s visions of another world are not real. They reflect Beard’s perception of the moment, rather than how it is. In order to avoid sentimentality, Beard goes into a different realm, outer space. She is not only able to see the stars in the wilderness and feel the immense loneliness of this vast expanse, but she can also relate to it. All of this happens within seconds of Eric taking her hand. She doesn’t feel grounded by Eric and doesn’t find comfort in his company. She is more down here than she realizes. “There is only the horrible arch in the sky, the shrinking moon and nothing else.” Beard uses unpredictability to make her feel helpless. This passage is rich and complex. It is filled with a wonderful sadness. Her writing is beautiful and sad. While he is telling the story, Sedaris also provides a comparison to his childhood. The stark and comical contrasts between childhood experiences is evident in his rather subtle comparison. Sedaris never mocks Hugh. Rather, he gives the facts and tells a story about his own childhood. Sedaris does not make statements about Hugh nor the Ethiopian environment in which he was born. The story is true to the original storyteller. It is shocking to see dead men hanging from telephone poles. However, the story continues as if nothing unusual happened. Instead, the story’s future isn’t about Hugh, it is about Hugh having seen the movie. Sedaris avoids any dramatic traps that could be allowed for the story and allows it to speak for itself. Sedaris doesn’t allow himself to be self-centered. Instead, he tells a story that is true and allows the reader to enjoy the journey through the eyes of others. Sedaris makes meaning clear through his story. He compares events that are easier to understand by their unique juxtapositions. Yet, the essay’s title, Remembering my Childhood On the Continent of Africa is his claim to the experience.

Both Beard & Sedaris draw on the comparison and contrast of raw materials. This, done correctly, allows for deeper meaning. Sedaris uses an analogy to describe his childhood, while Beard does the opposite. However, Beard is more creative and effective. Both authors can avoid self-centered narratives by looking beyond the raw material.


  • ewanpatel

    I'm a 29-year-old educational bloger and teacher. I have been writing about education for about six years, and I have a B.A. in English from UC Santa Cruz. I also have a M.A. in English from San Francisco State University. I teach high school English in the Bay Area.