Bearing witness is at the heart of life writing.
How does bearing witness underpin life writing?
Life writing encompasses everything from the complete life to the day-in-the life, from fictional to factional and although it can be manipulated as the writer wishes, bearing witness is always at the heart of and underpins life writing. As a consequence of bearing witness to stories, the author is in a better position to connect to the reader by employing characteristics of life writing. This genre of writing sees the author use a variety of techniques to shape and retell firsthand experiences from their life in a way that shows truth and meaning, which underpins life writing. In ‘It Will Look Like a Sunset’, the author retells a powerful and confronting story of herself as a victim of domestic violence by revealing her inner thoughts and secrets. “In ‘Thing with Feathers That Perches in the Soul’, which is about a newly-moved-in family looking back at the story of the first family that had lived there, the writer uses vivid descriptions of specific moments to accentuate the realness of events. In ‘Grandpa’s Rice’, I used both vivid descriptions and inner thoughts to convey how I felt about my Grandpa. These three texts demonstrate how bearing witness to a personal experience is the foundation to life writing.
Life writing reveals the author’s inner thoughts and removes a level of secrecy between the writer and the reader. In ‘It Will Look Like a Sunset’, the writer talks to a policeman about some of the problems while he essentially tells her that it is normal and it is all right. Sundberg writes “I nodded my head in agreement, but I wanted to ask, “Do you beat your wife, too?” This line clearly emphasises her real response to what the policeman said and how lightly he treated the situation. The question “do you beat your wife, too” shows the secrecy that is kept between her and the policeman and allows the reader to imagine the potential reaction if she had asked the very straightforward question. The use of the words “I wanted”, which is repeated in a later line “I wanted him to hug me so I could hide my face in the folds of his black uniform. I crumpled into the rocking chair instead,” further emphasises her true thoughts and even conveys a sense of regret; that if she had known the outcome of not telling the policeman everything, that she would have done what she wanted to do. In my own writing ‘Grandpa’s Rice’, I retell the inner thoughts that I had when I had found out he had passed away: “I laid in my bed that night, my heart spiralling into a deep abyss. Sadness shatters the warmth and confidence from within, and quickly the feeling of security diminishes – wherein shame and confusion fills in their absence. I felt a combination of this, and anxiety.” This metaphor reflects a highly personal perspective with honesty. The feeling of shame that I had thought about my Grandpa in such a negative way was retold from a real personal incident...