Life as We Knew It is told in “epistolary” form, through the entries of Miranda’s diary. This format is often used in novels featuring teen protagonists like I Capture the Castle, Go Ask Alice, The Princess Diaries, and Absolutely Normal Chaos. It’s chosen as a way to enhance the realism of the narrative—to create a stronger connection with the character’s thoughts and feelings, though it also presents a unique set of limitations as well.
Since the story is told through Miranda’s journal, many of her thoughts and beliefs are recorded, but never verified or challenged, and are unreliable because of the things she does not know and the things she is too scared to ask. For example, Miranda frequently posits that her mother is ‘betting on’ Jonny and Matt’s survival more than her own. Miranda offers evidence of this via her observations and personal choices, but never directly affirms this with her mother, Laura. Emotion also often clouds Miranda’s thoughts, and her descriptions of fights with her mother or kissing Dan by Miller’s Pond impact the tone and mood of the narrative. Furthermore, as her food supply and energy dwindle, Miranda begins to second-guess her own thoughts: Did she really see figure skater Brandon Erlich at the pond, or did she fantasize it?
Because Miranda is recording the events of her life as they occur—without the distance of time or a wider perspective—her newest entries constantly redefine those that came before. She often retrospectively realizes that her evaluation of previous situations was inaccurate based on what she now knows in her current reality. For instance, when her mother sprains her ankle for the first time, Miranda assumes that this is the worst thing that could occur (and in general she uses the words “best” and “worst” quite liberally), yet when her mother re-sprains her ankle at a time when their situation is more dire, she reflects back on her previous thoughts and reevaluates them.
In addition, with limited news reaching their family, Miranda often loses perspective of the larger world. Her concerns must focus on the immediacy of her own needs and those around her. As she says, “[W]ithout hearing what’s going on in the real world, it’s easy to think there is no real world anymore, that Howell, PA, is the only place left on earth.” The lack of reliable sources of news, compounded by Miranda’s own needs not being met, means that she often lacks the energy to care or consider the well-being of those outside her immediate sphere. As the struggle for survival overtakes both Miranda and the rest of the world, her perspective is forced to narrow.
The appearance of truth created through Miranda’s diary entries is counterbalanced by the insular nature of her experiences following the asteroid crash. The realism and intimacy of her writing can also create a false sense of security, lulling the reader into forgetting how influenced this story is by Pfeffer’s choice of narrator and method of narration. It is important to consider that Life As We Knew It is really the story of life as Miranda knew it, and not a global or objective perspective at all.
Perspective Quotes in Life as We Knew It
They said asteroids hit the moon pretty often, which is how the moon gets its craters, but this one is going to be the biggest asteroid ever to hit it and on a clear night you should be able to see the impact when it happens... They made it sound pretty dramatic, but I still don’t think it’s worth three homework assignments.
Sometimes when Mom is getting ready to write a book she says she doesn’t know where to start, that the ending is so clear to her that the beginning doesn’t seem important anymore. I feel that way now only I don’t know what the ending is, not even what the ending is tonight.
Somehow I’d forgotten there were other countries, that we shared the moon with other countries.
One thing Matt did say to me was that no matter what the future is, we’re living through a very special time in history. He says that history makes us who we are, but we can make history also, and that anyone can be a hero, if they just choose to be.
“There are lots of different ways to be hungry, you know. Some people are hungry for food and others are hungry for God’s love.” She gave me a look then, pure Megan, to let me know which camp I fell into.
“I’m the one not caring. I’m the one pretending the earth isn’t shattering all around me because I don’t want it to be... I don’t want anything more to be afraid of. I didn’t start this diary for it to be a record of death.”
Watching sitcoms was like eating toast. Two months ago, it was so much a part of my life I didn’t even notice it. But now it feels like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and the Wizard of Oz all rolled into one.
“I know Mom doesn’t want us to die,” I said. I thought really hard about what I wanted to say so it would come out right. “But I think maybe she doesn’t want us to live, either. We should just hide in our rooms and not feel anything and if we get rescued, great, but if we don’t, well, maybe we’ll live a little longer. If you can call it living. I know Mom tells you things she doesn’t tell me, but am I wrong? Because I really feel that way more and more. I’d like to be wrong, because it scares me if Mom feels that way. But I don’t think I am.”
Maybe we’ll be lucky. Maybe something good will happen that we can’t imagine just now. But we have to prepare for the worst. You and I and Matt and Jonny have to prepare for the worst. We have to assume frosts in August. We have to assume no power and no food coming and no gas for the car and no oil for the furnace. Up till now we’ve been playacting survival, but from now on we have to take it seriously.
I know Dan thinks I’m lucky that I’ve been “untouched” by everything that’s happened. And I know I’m self-pitying to think otherwise. But sometimes I wonder if the big cannonball horror of knowing someone you love has died is all that much worse than the everyday attrition of life.
I write stuff down in here and I don’t read it. Things are bad enough without having to remind myself of just how bad things are.
But I just read what I wrote a couple of days ago. All about how wonderful school is and all that crap. Tests. Whoo-whoo. Report cards. Whoo-whoo. The future. Biggest whoo-whoo of them all.
But without hearing what’s going on in the real world, it’s easy to think there is no more real world anymore, that Howell, PA, is the only place left on earth.
What if there is no more New York or Washington or LA? I can’t even imagine a London or Paris or Moscow anymore.
How will we know? I don’t even know what time it is anymore.
But for that one moment I felt so weak, so helpless. I felt nothing but fear and despair and the most awful need to be anyplace else. I told myself it was hunger, but I knew that was a lie.
As long as Mom was all right, I could fool myself into thinking we’d all be all right. But even though I knew Mom could have fallen anytime and sprained her ankle anytime, this felt as though it was the beginning of the end.
I know it shouldn’t bother me but it does. I can see Mom’s upset, too, even though she’s acting like she isn’t. I guess it’s because things have been kind of level for awhile, and now they’re worse again. Not big bad worse...but worse anyway.
I’ve never really thought about what it would be like to be an old woman. Of course nowadays I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to be any kind of woman.
But I hope when I get closer to death, however old I might be, that I can face it with courage and good sense the way Mrs. Nesbitt does. I hope that’s a lesson I’ve truly learned.
I’d dream of Paris, of London, of Tokyo. I wanted to go to South America, to Africa. I always assumed I could someday.
But my world keeps getting smaller and smaller. No school. No Pond. No town. No bedroom. Now I don’t even have the view out the windows.
I feel myself shriveling along with my world, getting smaller and harder.
“But as long as we don’t know what the future is going to bring us, we owe it to ourselves to keep living. Things could get better. Somewhere people are working on solutions to all this. They have to be. It’s what people do. And our solution is to stay alive one day at a time. Everyone dies in increments, Miranda. Every day we’re one day closer to death. But there’s no reason to rush into it. I intend to stay alive as long as I possibly can and I expect the same from you.”
Every day when I got to sleep I think what a jerk I was to have felt sorry for myself the day before. My Wednesdays are worse than my Tuesdays, my Tuesdays way worse than my Tuesday of a week before. Which means every tomorrow is going to be worse than every today. Why feel sorry for myself today when tomorrow’s bound to be worse?
We hugged each other and said we should see more of each other, but I doubt that we will. We don’t want anyone else to know how much food we have or firewood. And they don’t want us to know, either.
Do people ever realize how precious life is? I know I never did before. There was always time. There was always a future.
Maybe because I don’t know anymore if there is a future, I’m grateful for the good things that have happened to me this year.
I’d left a record. People would know I had lived. That counted for a lot.
But today, when I am 17 and warm and well fed, I’m keeping this journal for myself so that I can always remember life as we knew it, life as we know it, for a time when I am no longer in the sunroom.