One of Eggers’s friends. John grew up in the same neighborhood as Eggers in Lake Forest, Illinois, and because their parents were friends, they have known each other for a very long time. Even when they “had less and less to say to each other” in high school, they were “still inextricably tied.” Like Eggers, John is an adult orphan, his mother having died when he was a sophomore in high school and his father having died when John was in college (shortly after Eggers’s father died). Since then, John has had severe depression. In fact, he often threatens to kill himself. After posing this kind of threat one night, Eggers rushes over to his apartment and calls the police. Assessing the situation, the police summon paramedics, who take John to have his stomach pumped at the hospital. At this point, John begins transcending his role as a conventional character in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, speaking directly to Eggers and shaming him for using his story. It later becomes clear that Eggers has chosen to call him John (a fake name) because this was his own father’s name—a fact John resents because he doesn’t want to be used for Eggers’s selfish storytelling purposes. As such, John becomes a representation not only of the grief inherent to parental loss, but also of Eggers’s insecurities and misgivings about writing about the people in his life.
John Character Timeline in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
The timeline below shows where the character John appears in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface to This Edition
...on real people, some of their names have been changed to preserve anonymity. The character John, for instance, isn’t actually named John in real life, but Eggers’s friend asked that his... (full context)
...his friends’ apartment that night, Eggers receives a call from Meredith, who tells him that John is “threatening” suicide again. Distracted by the fact that his mother’s remains are sitting outside... (full context)