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Finding Meaning in a Stolen Life Essay

It is said that all life does indeed involve suffering but it is what we make of this suffering that will determine whether or not we find meaning in our life. One must look within and around himself to create meaning in her life; one can finding meaning by creating works or doing deeds, experiencing things or encountering people, and choosing one’s attitude towards the suffering in her life. There will always be obstacles in the way to meaning—the tragic triad of pain, guilt, and death—but one must use this to fuel your drive to find meaning by maintaining tragic optimism—faith, love, and hope.

Many people lead difficult lives, however, some find meaning and others choose not to. In the memoir A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard, Jaycee Dugard is put through what she describes as an “intolerable situation,” but manages to make meaning of the suffering in her stolen life. Jaycee Dugard has experienced tragic triad: pain, guilt, and death. She deals with pain throughout the entirety of her early life. The main source of her pain and suffering was Phillip who kidnapped and put her through hell on earth.

Jaycee recalls the day Phillip took her—the first painful experience she had with the man that would strip her of her innocence. Jaycee recollects what was running through her mind at the time of her traumatic abduction: “Someone is dragging me and I am being lifted. My limbs feel like they weigh a ton. I try to resist and try to push away from farther into the bushes. The paralyzing feeling returns accompanied by a strange electrical current zapping sound. I am helpless to resist for some reason. ” (9-10).

It is not long after her abduction when Jaycee is put through an even greater mental test. She has been scare and alone since she was taken from her world on that faithful day and now Phillip would only make her more scared and alienated. Phillip does to Jaycee what nobody should ever have done onto them. She experiences pain physically and mentally when he rapes her and she remembers him trying to justifying her suffering: “He says it would be easier on me if I didn’t resist or struggle so much next time. He says it wouldn’t hurt as much.

I think to myself, if you didn’t do it in the first place then it wouldn’t hurt at all. But I am too frightened by his act to say a thing in objection to him. ” (31-32). Jaycee feels her first sense of guilt in her new life when she is given a kitten. Her kidnappers brought her home a kitten and she was happy but says, “I have begun to feel guilty for asking for her in the first place. I should have thought about the place we were going to put her. This is no place for a kitty. He says his aunt is an animal lover and will take her. ” (41).

She does not want the kitten to stay in the little room with her because she knows it is not fair for the kitten to not have a lot of space to run around and be happy. Her giving the kitten away makes her feel better because she knows it is not good for the kitten to be stuck in the room of suffering. She manages to get over this guilt but soon she is faced with a greater obstacle. Jaycee experiences death for the first time. It is not that of her own life but the death of one of her animals that brings her greater suffering she notes, “Blackjack lived a long life.

Toward the end I took primary care of him and I was the one that found him when he died. It was very hard for me. At the time, I had made a cat enclosure which he would go in at night to keep safe, and that’s where I found him one morning… I cried a lot for him. ” (160). Jaycee was an animal lover and for her to find the cat she took care of dead was very hard for her. However, all of these experiences made her a stronger person. Jaycee did not allow the tragic triad to keep her from making meaning of her life. She kept searching.

Jaycee Dugard was on her way to countering with two of the three parts of tragic optimism–love, and hope. She had children at a very young age and although she did not want them from Phillip or at the ages of fourteen and seventeen she loves her children very much. She loves both of her daughters, she did not want to give either of them up, stating, “I did it because that was the only thing I could do. I would do it all again. The most precious thing in the world came out of it… my daughters. ” (110). Her love for her two daughters fueled her positivity towards her adverse life.

She was a very hopeful person all through her young life and her daughters gave her more of a reason to hold fast. Jaycee was constantly hoping that she would one day be emancipated. When she is first placed in the room out back, she hoped someone was looking for her and that they would find her one day to take her from home. Although she had a rough life from the age of eleven until the age of twenty-nine, she kept a very positive attitude by doing work and keeping busy. She found greater meaning in her suffering by creating works. She started a business—a printing company–with Phillip who has put her through endless torture.

Over time she learned how to do it on her own and does most of the work for the company: “I work up a design and he takes it to the costumer and gets it approved when he brings it back to me, I print them on cards. The job turns out great and I am very proud of myself Phillip says that he thinks I should do the workups and he will get the jobs and help with the printing. ”(127). Instead of weeping in sorrow for herself that her childhood and beginning of her adult life were taken away from her, she does work to make herself productive.

This is good for her because instead of living in the existential vacuum, she feels like she is accomplishing something other than watching television every day like she used to and she feels important. . It takes a very positive person to find meaning in the kind of suffering Jaycee had to endure, and she embodied this person. She chooses to have a positive attitude towards being captured and enslaved. Throughout the time she was taken she kept a journal and instead of always writing about how much she misses her mom and wishes she was not with Phillip and Nancy, she wrote, “10 things that make me happy; 1.

hearing someone laugh; 2. when my cats are near me… 10. knowing someone loves me. ”(183-184). Instead of thinking of all the bad in her life, she chose to stay positive and think of things she appreciates about life. Not everyone can do that, but she learned that staying positive is more meaningful. All life involves suffering as the main character Jaycee Dugard would know. She suffered a lot in her life from the time she was kidnapped up until she was saved eighteen years later. She suffers the first day she is taken. “I want my mommy.

I want time to reverse itself and give me a do-over,” she cries about the situation she is in (10). Then it gets worse. Jaycee describes what is going on when she was thrown in the back of the car and taken to Phillips house where her suffering would begin: “A blanket is thrown on top of me and I feel a lot of weight on my back, I feel as if I can’t breathe. I hear voices but they are muffled. The car is moving. I want to get out of the car. I twist and turn, but something is pinning me down. ” (10). She goes through a scarring experience as he puts her through the greatest suffering she will have to endure in her 18 years here.

A few days after kidnapping Jaycee, Phillip takes advantage of her, “he stands back up and takes off all his clothes. I do not want him to do that… I feel so helpless and vulnerable. I feel so alone. He lies on top of me. I can’t stop crying. ” (31). She was raped and had to suffer through it because she had no other choice as she was too afraid of what he would do if she did not cooperate. Even after being raped and impregnated, she had to pretend she was not the mother of her children. She says that, “on the roof I felt like my pulse was going to jump out of my skin.

I wanted to grab her and hold her. ” (154). Phillip and Nancy wanted Jaycee to pretend that they were the parents of the children she gave birth to and that she was just their sister, but Jaycee did not want that. Jaycee wanted to be able to take care of her children and it killed her that she had to let Nancy do it. However, she did overcome the situation. When she was found and reunited with her real family, she wanted to meet with Nancy, “I wanted to see her for many different reasons, the biggest being closure. Telling her that what she and Phillip did was not okay in any way.

” (243). Although her kidnappers took most of her life away from her, she still stood up to them in the end and wanted them to know she was a stronger person. Although Jaycee suffered a lot she did not let it get the best of her. She has made meaning of her life. However, it did not happen right as she was freed as she said, “my growth has not been an overnight phenomenon. Nonetheless it has slowly but surely come about. ” (261). She is doing well now and both of her kids are in high school. She reunited with one of her friends from her childhood and now they are really close.

She knows what they did to her was wrong but she said she got the most precious things out of it and that was her two daughters whom she loves a lot. She stays clear of living a provisional existence while she was captured and even after she was liberated, she didn’t go through moral deformity and bitterness. Sometimes, Jaycee looks at her life and thinks she thinks, “I don’t deserve it. ” (267). Jaycee was a self-determinist and believed she had free will to make of her life what she wanted it to be. She utilized tragic optimism to resolve the tragic triad she had to go through.

Jaycee kept a positive attitude towards her life and used this to create work and endure the experiences she had to go through and to find love, the greatest way to make meaning of one’s life, in the children she was forced to bare. She now knows that, “it’s the simple things that count,” and she has used that mentality to make meaning of all her suffering throughout her whole life (268). Citations 1. A Stolen Life Dugard, Jaycee. A Stolen Life. N. p. , n. d. Web. 22 May 2012. 2. Man’s Search for Meaning Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search For Meaning. N. p. : Beacon Press, 2006. Print.


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