Effect of Point of View and Syntax in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a novel written by Jesse Andrews but narrated and told by a key character, Greg S. Gaines. Greg is a gawky, awkward, senior in high school who prefers and strives to remain unseen by his peers. His life is turned over when his mother announces that his “friend”, Rachel Kushner, from many years ago has been diagnosed with leukemia. Greg and his friend Earl start a journey together as they befriend Rachel and take on the difficult task of keeping her spirits up in the face of a terminal illness. Spoken through Greg’s voice in a first person point of view, the novel instills emotions of joy, sympathy, and grief and allows the reader to share these feelings with the characters. The use of syntax, dialogue, and characterization of the main characters also helps to strengthen the meaning of the work that a particular situation or experience can dramatically affect those who are a part of it.
The story line opens with Greg’s analysis of high school and his advice to survive unscathed. The opening paragraph of the novel contains the sentence; “It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks”. This sentence alone contains the ability to appeal to an audience in that age group. Andrews writes the book as though Greg is actually writing a recollection of a time period in his life in which he becomes friends with Rachel and experiences the pain that cancer can cause. The point of view creates a significantly more detailed description of Greg and his thoughts. Greg directly addresses the reader frequently, and often in reference to book that he is writing. “You should smack yourself in the face a couple of times right now, just to complete the outstandingly stupid experience of this book”, the tone in which Greg speaks about the story and also in which he speaks to the reader bring the fictional story and its characters to life. As the plot progresses and Rachel’s leukemia also progresses this point of view becomes extremely valuable in understanding the ways not only Greg but also Earl feel about their dying friend.
“Actually, I wanted to yell at her. Maybe I should have. JESUS CHRIST I HATE WRITING ABOUT THIS”. The syntax that Jesse Andrews chooses for Greg Gaines distinctly helps to characterize him. The previous quotation reveals Greg’s frustration and feelings of grief over the recollection of his late friend. The word choice in the dialogue specifically aid in the characterization of Earl and Greg, showing background, education level, and personality. Greg’s sense of humor is identified as dry and sarcastic and Earl’s use of profanity create a sense of the environment he grew up in.
Upon Rachel’s climax of her battle with cancer Greg and Earl are talked into making a film for her. Their homemade films had been a source of immense happiness for Rachel, so with this in mind they set out to create something in tribute to their friend. The creation of this film proves to be a trial that neither of the filmmakers had expected. The situation that presents itself tries Greg and Earl to be stronger than they had thought possible. The stereotype that is given to Earl in the beginning of the novel is broken when he expresses so deeply his regards to Rachel and how she changed his life. Greg’s epiphany occurs in the epilogue of the book when he is able to realize how great an effect Rachel really did have on his life.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl captures the value of a troubling time and the way in which it may affect the lives of those who experience it. Jesse Andrews’ use of point of view, syntax, dialogue, and characterization of the main characters assist in the delivery of this message.
E.S. 2016