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An Analysis of Dave Eggers’ Memoir in “A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius

Jan 22, 2023 | 0 comments

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Jan 22, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

“A Heart-breaking Work of Staggering Genius” is a memoir written by Dave Eggers. The books chronicle the stewardship of Dave Eggers of Christopher “Toph” Eggers, his younger brother after the death of their parents from cancer related diseases (Eggers 21). The primary story of the book revolves around Dave Eggers as he tries to learn to play the role of both a parent and a brother to Toph. This essay is a literary response to the memoir, and it will discuss what the essay thinks about the main character, Dave Eggers. It will discuss both positive and negative thoughts and perceptions about the author.

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The author is caring, admirable and responsible. At the age of 22 years, the author was orphaned after his parents both died from cancer related illnesses within five months. He became a “single mother” to his younger brother Toph (Eggers 33). The book elaborates that after being left an orphan, Dave Eggers is appointed the guardian of Christopher who was eight years old. They live together, and sports equipment and decaying food are scattered about, while he worries about the authorities of the child welfare, his own health and the molesting babysitters (Para 3). Their parents left a will that their bodies to be used for medical laboratory science. “When my parents passed on, and we read their wills, we discovered something we didn’t at all expect, especially from our devoutly Catholic mother: they had both left instructions that their bodies be donated to science. We were bewildered, and we were pissed. They wanted their cadavers to be used by medical students, they wanted their flesh to be cut into, and their cancerous organs examined. We were breathless. They wanted no elaborate funerals, no expense incurred for such stuff” (Eggers 27). According to Eggers, his strategy of child rearing swings between performing development experiments that are bizarre on him and making the upbringing of his brother. Moreover, he being responsible and admirable is portrayed when in California where he has moved he was able to work at different jobs, care for Toph, found “Might” and later on take turn to be a star on The Real Word of MTV (65).

Dave Eggers is emotionally honest and tells about the real world from his experiences. The title’s arc tone and the wit used in the preface may blind a reader of this memoir of Dave Eggers’ books real wonder. The author tries very hard to narrate a difficult story to his audience. In writing about the death of his parents from cancer related diseases, he uses unflattering terms without belaboured sentiment, and soft focus that the normal societal culture has led the reader to expect (Eggers 74). In real life situations, the slow death of a person you dearly love is horrible sometimes, and Dave Eggers’ story does to denies that either, or the way the mind escapes from the sorrow and horror and shifts focus on trivia.

The author has an experimental attitude, and this is shown when the author makes the decision to take care of his younger sibling at his younger age. Moreover, he makes an attempt to create to himself a fascinating life. Similarly, Dave Eggers shifts from Berkeley in Chicago where his sister lives and moves to California (Eggers 56). This all shows his experimental attitude the author possess. One of the strengths of this book that many critics point out is that the memoir loses focus immediately after he first section. This essay believes that it is a strength because, in any fiction, the protagonist does not pointlessly wander around, and especially mostly after a major event such as death has occurred (Para 2).

The author is emotional and thought provocative. When reader goes through the memoir of Dave Eggers, it makes the ear think about their own views of life and the texts itself. The authors say “Pain comes at me, and I take it, chew it for a few minutes, and spit it back out. It’s just not my thing anymore” (Eggers 87). Despite the fact that the book was centred on himself and also specific to him, he has tried to pull the reader to himself and made them rethink about their own lives in an emotional manner. The author has used a lot of descriptions in his literary work to the point that if reader reads it avidly, they are easily drawn close to the book’s characters and evoke deep emotions and thoughts from them.

The authors are a genius. This is because Dave Eggers has written his memoir purely to please himself and vent out his emotions and troubles, and that is the way autobiographies should be written. The author has used captivating words, wit and humour some parts of the book to engage the reader. Moreover, the books create an impression of the author’s voice which the reader never loses sight of. Throughout the whole book, there is consistent and constant author’s voice. Sometimes the voice changes and becomes sarcastically hilarious, cynical and mania but it is ever-present, which makes the author a genius (Eggers 102). In telling the stories about the incidents at home or at his pace of work, Dave Eggers tells the story just like more of a stream of consciousness reliable to anybody. Overall the story is endearing as the author who is a young man strives to maintain a normal life, which makes it genius.

Dave Eggers engages is inspiring and is personal in his book with the reader. According to Eggers, the three elements that determine a successful memoir is the ability to relate, sense of trust and unique style (117). Dave Eggers has just encompassed the three elements in his book perfectly. The author engages the reader to dive into his own psyche as if he understood the insecurities of people of losing everything that is important to them one day. As the author progresses in his narration, he becomes skittish, self-centred and irrational, but very much aware of it, moreover, the author does try to make himself appear better before the eyes of his audience. In fact, he is willing to admit that that to everything that is narrating are entirely accurate. This engages and makes the reader trusts him more. Furthermore, Dave Eggers hands his tragedies that befell him at the age of 21 years with levity and sense of humour which is inspiring (Para 5). His memoir and style of writing is so personal just like reading the diary of a friend. As the reader goes through the book, they feel sadness, happiness and eventually becomes stronger and tougher than ever before.

The author seems heartbroken from his narration. The first chapter of the book is ripe with high emotions, and the Dave Eggers writes about his loss and his experiences. This makes the reader feel connected and relate to him. The author is portrayed in the eyes of the reader as a heartbroken because the anger, emotion, almost psychotic rhetoric and frustration are believable and moving because they took place. Heartbroken Dave Eggers is also seen when a reader relates the story of losing the loved ones to the cancer disease. However, the hopeless optimism shining through the character in the memoir is uplifting somehow (Eggers 126).

The author is self-serving, self-absorbed, and self-centred and publicly seeks sympathy from his readers. From the memoir of Dave Eggers, the reader is guided through the tragedies that befell Dave Eggers and his family because it is where the book focusses more. “We feel that to reveal embarrassing or private things, we have given someone something, that, like a primitive person fearing that a photographer will steal his soul, we identify our secrets, our past and their blotches, with our identity, that revealing our habits or losses or deeds somehow makes one less of oneself ” (Eggers 132). The author writes his work in a manner that draws sympathy from the reader. However, when the sympathy from the readers starts drying up, he gets into other people’s tragedies however remote he relationship between them. This essay believes that the author tries to play the martyr and is expecting praise from his audience for doing some things that several people consider normal. For insane, at his age by law he is considered an adult and therefore caring for his younger brother is normal to any people, hence does not warrant any praise (Eggers 142).


The essay has discussed that it thinks about the main character, Dace Eggers. It has discussed both positive and negative things it thinks about the author. From the discussion, the essay found out that Dave Eggers is caring, admirable and responsible. Dave Eggers is also emotionally honest and tells about the real world from his experiences. Moreover, he has experimental attitude, is emotional, though provocative and genius. Furthermore, Dave Eggers engages, is inspiring and is personal in his book with the reader, seems heartbroken. Lastly, the negative part of the author the essay found that he is self-serving, self-absorbed, and self-centred and publicly seeks sympathy from his readers.


Eggers, Dave. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. , 2000. Print.




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