What Is the What: A Tapestry of Resilience Woven Through Loss and Displacement - Dave Eggers

American literature essay. Literary analysis of works and characters - Sykalo Evgen 2023

What Is the What: A Tapestry of Resilience Woven Through Loss and Displacement
Dave Eggers

"What Is the What" by Dave Eggers is more than just a story of war and displacement; it's a moving tapestry woven with themes of human connection, resiliency, and the eternal power of storytelling in the face of unfathomable loss. This essay explores Eggers's literary talent, looking at the ways in which he employs subject investigation, character development, and narrative structure to paint a complex and nuanced picture of the human spirit amid the carnage of war.

Identity's Fragile Tapestry:

Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese refugee who had to leave his village because of the civil war, is the main character of the narrative. Valentino's path is characterized by persistent relocation and a never-ending disconnection from the known and the people he left behind. The dissolution of identity and the ongoing questioning of "what is the what"—the core of oneself and one's place in the world—that come with displacement are expertly captured by Eggers.

The Connective Threads:

In spite of the dire circumstances, Eggers manages to intertwine human connection throughout the story. Through his contacts with other migrants, Valentino finds comfort and meaning in life, creating ties to his family and friends that cut over linguistic and cultural divides. A strong sense of community is fostered by the shared experiences of loss, fear, and hope; this is evidence of the human need to belong, even in the most bleak settings.

The Storytelling Tool's Power as a Tapestry:

In "What Is the What," storytelling itself turns into a vital survival and resiliency strategy. Through his own narration and the traditional oral storytelling method known as "gorogoro," Valentino shares the details of his tragic past in a way that both relieves his personal catharsis and preserves his cultural identity. Through narrative, the past is brought to life as a tangible thread in the present, providing comfort and fortitude in the face of uncertainty.

Hope's Fragile Beauty:

Although the story acknowledges the great pain and loss caused by the conflict, it doesn't focus only on hopelessness. Eggers delicately interweaves sensitive, comical, and even ephemeral moments of delight throughout Valentino's journey. Even though they are fleeting, these moments serve as a reminder of the beauty of the human spirit and our ability for hope.

The Long-Term Effect of the Tapestry:

"What Is the What" is a narrative about the human condition rather than just conflict. Thanks to Eggers's deft use of character development, narrative structure, and theme investigation, readers are able to appreciate Valentino's tenacity and hopefulness while also empathizing with his suffering and experiencing the weight of loss and displacement. Despite being left open-ended, the novel's finale has a profound effect on us and makes us reflect on the "what is the what" of our own lives and the variety of experiences that make us who we are.

Additional Analysis

This essay serves as a springboard for a more thorough examination of "What Is the What." You can investigate particular situations or exchanges between characters that highlight the themes of perseverance, grief, and displacement. You can also investigate the novel's historical background, reader and critic reactions, and contributions to the comprehension of the experience of being a refugee. You can understand Eggers's striking and poignant tapestry in a more complex and perceptive way by looking more closely at these components.