57 pages 1 hour read

Sharon Creech

Absolutely Normal Chaos

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1990

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Symbols & Motifs

The Journal

The motif of the journal informs the structure of the text, as Mary Lou keeps a day-to-day record of her summer. Her consciousness of an audience varies according to the day and heightens more at the beginning and the end of the summer. Sometimes she directly addresses the reader, as when she says “for your sake, though, mystery reader, I hope things get a little more interesting” (8). This address is one of many that communicates the fear of having herself and her life pronounced deficient by the stranger who will read it. Moreover, in the opening instruction to Mr. Birkway not to read the journal, she half fears that her getting “a little carried away” and filling six journals, will expose her as abnormal (1).

The process of getting carried away happens when Mary Lou forgets that the journal is an assignment and writes for herself, to make sense of what has happened in the day. As a result, she learns to be observant and reflective. While Mary Lou enjoys documenting the lives and speech of others and recording her private thoughts on their behavior, when she is faced with the horror of Carl Ray’s accident and the suspense about whether he will wake up, she reads and rereads the journals to study herself.