This student finds inspiration in American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings about self-reliance, realizing that being an independent thinker and not relying on one’s circumstances as an excuse are powerful sources of self-worth. This student recalls the tragic circumstances in which her father burned his grandmother to death. Her father was almost attacked by an angry mob who learned what had happened, but was ultimately taken to prison.
The violent events this student has been through, which have left an indelible mark on her mind, highlight the fact that self-reliance, for her, might prove more difficult than for other students who have not been scarred by violence in their past. Her trust in her capacity to overcome these circumstances thus shows strength and courage.
From that point on, this student’s life was changed forever. She could not understand how her father could have committed such a horrible crime. In these moments, she felt completely alone, feeling that no one understood her confusion, because everybody thought they knew what she felt. When she reads that Emerson equates greatness with being misunderstood, she feels that she can find strength in her own sense of isolation and learn to be self-reliant.
While this student learns to transfors her emotional and intellectual isolation into strength, it is still apparent that she would have enjoyed expressing her thoughts to other people. Throughout the students’ years in high school, Ms. Gruwell strives to create a safe space for her students where such sharing and self-expression might be possible.