The short story essay “The Love of My Life,” by Cheryl Strayed explores the themes of self-development, discovery, and grief. In this particular story, Strayed writes her memoir, however, the manner in which the story is presented is similar to those of fiction works. Also, there is great mastering of literary styles and rhetorical elements that have been used to make the story more interesting for the audience. One of the most used rhetorical tools within the short story is the rhetorical tool of sensationalism. This particular literary device has been employed by the author to prompt the reader to note the key themes within the essay which are grief and self-discovery. This paper examines Strayed’s short story concerning Gerard’s ideas of how CNF authors employ the techniques of fiction in their works.
Strayed starts the short story by noting two very critical events that are meant to invoke the attention of the reader and ensure that they are glued to the text for longer. She does this by explaining how she became unfaithful to her husband at a very sad moment in her life, she had just lost her mother. She notes, “The first time I cheated on my husband, my mother had been dead for exactly one week” (Strayed 1). The two events are of public interest and thus any reader who comes across this story would read ahead to know what happened and the underlying themes. According to Gerard, a good story should be one that connects with people. “I love to read, and have always loved to read because it is one way to connect with a person” (Gerard 130). Through the use of unfaithfulness and death, the author can connect with the audience.
Even though “The Love of My Life” provides true life events of the author, the way that it has been written can easily mistake it for fiction work. This has been achieved because the story has all the elements of fiction. One of the elements of creative nonfiction works as noted by Gerard is that the story has to be timely but at the same time relevant (Gerard 126). The issue of cheating on her husband and the death of her mother will always remain to be relevant and eye-catching events.
Gerard’s perception of how to write a creative nonfiction story is having great mastery of the craft. In his book, Gerard claims that “a good way to approach writing creative nonfiction, paradoxically, is to forget about the literary part and concentrate on the nonfiction part.” (Gerard 129). According to him, by concentrating on the nonfiction part, the writer will have more time to focus on the craft and the story. This is evident in Strayed’s work through how she tells nearly every event and how they happened. For instance, she describes “He didn’t take his eyes off me. I rolled the rings around on my fingers. I was wearing two wedding bands, my own and my mother’s. From this example, it is apparent that the author is focusing on the true event, and in this way, she is able to bring out the story perfectly in an interesting manner.
Gerard, P. (2017). Creative nonfiction: Researching and crafting stories of real life. Waveland Press.
Strayed, C. (2016). Cheryl Strayed. Why we write about ourselves, 205e214.