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kkazan's picture

Make-up for Class: Alice in Bed and The Diary of Alice James

When reading The Diary of Alice James, I found myself thinking of Sontag's version of Alice. From Sontag, I grew to feel that Alice was pre-occupied with death and thought of almost nothing else. I saw her as childlike and weak, as one who spends her days feeling sorry for herself. But that is not at all the type of Alice that I take away from reading her diary. I find she presents herself as strong and intelligent, not liking to think about why she is in bed, but rather focusing her mind on the world around her (her visitors, friends, and the news of the day). To say Alice were upbeat is a grave over exaggeration, but she certainly does not seem to spend her day wallowing in self pity.

In terms of the two different forms of writing, one a play, the other a diary, they differ greatly. A play gives setting, different viewpoints from different characters, and is solely made up of dialogue. A diary only allows for one viewpoint, for even when we hear of what others say or do it is filtered through Alice James' mind. The diary allows the reader to understand how Alice's mind works. We learn what is important to her, what preoccupies her thoughts, and how she spends her days. The diary gives us the true version of Alice, which the play cannot. Also, the play has a way of making you feel sorry for Alice's condition and life, whereas the diary depicts her as strong and intelligent and has no hint of pity in it. 

Because we read her diary, we are bound to take all that is written as fact, whereas we are forced to take the play as complete fiction. We read the diary as personal, as internal thoughts unhindered by bias. Reading a play forces us to read it as dialogue and so we lose the personal touch of thought. 



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