The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan


When I first read Keegan’s last essay for the Yale Daily News, I was captivated by her writing. There is something earnest, sincere, heartfelt, brave, optimistic and hopeful in her last words as an undergraduate student that drew me, as well as more than a million other readers, to her. She described perfectly what it feels like to be in one’s early twenties and so uncertain, but at the same time so full of hope for the future. In the other pieces that she wrote, she experiments with a wide range of themes and genres. It feels like she hadn’t quite found where she belonged as a writer, but at the same time, she showed a unique eye and take on modern fiction. Exploring the relationship between people in the age of technology, insecurities, war and instability, she was certainly a talented budding author.

My favourite pieces are “Cold Pastoral” and “The Ingenue”; two very difference pieces. In the former, Keegan confronts the topic of death. Not an uncommon topic, but at such a young age, she explored the imminence of death and how that affects the precarious relationships between young people, and how they handle the tragedy. Facing death, the true value of relationships, long term and committed romantic relationships versus casual sexual relations, shows the different degrees of intimacy that we experience. I consider it a brave confrontation of the author with death and self-worth, evaluating earnestly and sensitively what we, young people, look for in our relationships. Keegan concludes that we all want and need intimacy, both on a physical and emotional level: “And suddenly, more than anything I’d ever wanted in my life, I wanted him to love me.” Somehow there is a tone and feeling of loneliness in her short story, subtly pervading her writing, but only became apparent in the last paragraph, where reality is put in contrast with the hopes and wishes of true intimacy. The piece is optimistic; death is not the end, but could be a beginning filled with hope.

In “The Ingenue”, Keegan shows her humour. A light-hearted piece, the short story skillfully portrays the ups and downs of a young relationship and how the little interactions between people can express a lot about a person’s true personality. The structure of the piece is interesting; it is told in a non-linear order, placing a short ‘hook’ at the beginning, which sounds very trivial and leaving lots of questions to be answered, before telling a longer story of the protagonist’s love story. There is an iconic moment of young love: the girl being jealous over the guy’s coworker who seems much more “compatible” with him than she is. (I must admit I related to it and I’m sure many other young people relate to it as well). But the breaking point of the relationship is quite an original point. The climax of the story reveals a key personality trait in Danny and why his dishonesty, even though is harmless, is ultimately the reason the protagonist could not accept him. The story’s ending paragraph connects back to the opening to explain its significance and wrap up a coherent story. Overall it’s a cleverly written piece that utilizes all the classic tricks of story telling to make it a compelling, believable and interesting read.

Keegan’s non fiction is not as charming, however, “Stability in Motion” is a standout. While she explored human relationships in the fiction, this piece described her love for her car, which acted as her friend and shelter for important life events. All in all, her writing shows a budding talent in the making. Even though they are not masterly executed, there is enough to see her knack for seeing people from different and new angles and describing them as interesting personalities. Her attempts to deal with death and other important life decisions are impressive.



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