The senses of having an identity are not unique to humans. All animals have to protect themselves. To do so, they have to be able to distinguish between ‘outsiders’ and members of their own species, which their survival depends on. So the human need for knowing who you are probably has deep roots in our biology. The first time an individual begins to think about identity is during adolescent. It is a central task during this stage of our life to create a stable and strong sense of self. By shedding light upon the creation of identity during teenage life, Marina Keegan helps the audience to understand the difficulties teenagers go through, which is just one of many themes Keegan explores within her essay “Stability in Motion” from 2014.
Marina Keegan, as a sender presents integrity and interest through her popularity and tragic dead. Before she died, due to a car crash1, Keegan already gained somewhat of fame through her essay “The Opposite of Loneliness”, which went viral. The circumstances of her death and the topic of her essay “Stability in Motion” are sadly ironic and make the text more intriguing for the receivers. The sad sense of irony is made particularly poignant when the author talks about being votes the worst driver in her year at high school. “In the Buckingham Browne & Nichols High School yearbook I was voted worst driver(…)” (ll. 229-231) The intended receivers of her essay are English-speaking readers that purchase her book. Because of the essays focus on identity and teenage life, the target receivers are teenagers and their parents. The essay helps the audience to understand the mentality of a teenager and shed lights upon the adolescent section of society ways of expressing their identity and personality. Additionally, the references to the senders supporting equal rights and Obama suggest that her text is addressed to those who share the same democratic belief and values as her. “I had two bumper stickers on the back: REPUBLICANS FOR VOLDEMORT and the symbol for the Equal Rights Campaign. On the back side windows were OBAMA ’08 signs.” (ll. 105-110)
To persuade the readers, Marina Keegan uses hidden argumentation to convey her arguments and views. The essayist does not state forthrightly that the essence of her essay is about how we may choose to express our personality. Instead, she presents a personal story with the intention of implicit convincing the receiver. The portrayal of her car, a Toyota Camry, and the way Keegan interacted with it, are an indirect, hidden way of showing how the author expressed her personality during her adolescent. “My car was not gross; it was occupied, cluttered, cramped. It became an extension of my bedroom, and thus an extension of myself.” (ll. 102- 105) Hence the car looked different when it was owned by the grandmother, compared to the time when Keegan owned it, is an implicit technique of showing that the car reflected dissimilar personalities: “The black exterior remained glossy and spotless, the beige interior crisp and pristine. Tissues were disposed of, seats vacuumed, and food prohibited.” (ll. 24-28) Furthermore, the author frequently personifies her car with the purpose of making the recipient look at it as an expression of her personality, a living memory that reflects the moving portrait of the sender’s identity “Born and raised in proper formality, the car saw me as that friend from school(…)” (ll. 70-72) The text also includes various allusions to books, movies and music, which establishes an atmosphere of teenage life and reveal essential aspects of the speaker’s personality that some readers can recognise. “(…) filled with textbooks and novels, the giant tattered copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and all one hundred chapters of Harry Potter on tape.” (ll. 113-117)
Marina Keegan’s style of writing in her essay “Stability in Motion” is personal, accessible and reveals a changing tone. From content to unhappy, from funny to nostalgic, the author’s shifting tone manages to hold audiences’ attention and hereby engage them. The language of the essay is figurative, which concord with the genre, but it is also easy to understand. The choice of words is related to a teenage lifestyle and culture, helping the writer to convey a dynamic and vivid depiction of life during adolescent. A dominant stylistic device in the essay is the writer’s usage of contrast. The title in itself is a contrast, as motion is the opposite of stability and this suggests that two important ideas are presented in the text. The reference to the opposing ideas can be a depicting of the differences between the sender and the grandmother using their car as an example. The grandmother is an example of discipline and stability, while the author is a teen for whom mobility is a defining aspect of adolescent. The title also refers to the fact that the car – which is a symbol of motion – becomes a component of stability across the author’s numerous experiences. Furthermore Keegan uses similes to draw comparisons that help the reader form associations that highlight the deeper meanings. To accentuate the impression that the car witnessed many of the writer’s occurrences and thoughts, Keegan compares her words with spilled juice, absorbed by the car’s fabric “(…) words and songs and swears are absorbed in its fabric, just like the orange juice I spilled on my way to the dentist.” (ll. 183-185)
“Stability in Motion” is a personal essay, as the essayist only illustrates experiences that Keegan personally lived – these experiences are one way or another connected with her first car. Using personal anecdotes has the purpose of making the essayist’s arguments and perspective more easily accepted by the recipient. The usage of personal experiences gives Keegan credibility and authority this helps to build a connection with the recipient through empathy and pathos; this also makes the argumentation more relatable and accessible. Also by using personal stories, the writer prevents any possible criticism as to the legitimacy of her arguments. A personal story implies that she knows her subject matter intimately and therefore she is alert that her essay is relatively subjective. “My car was not gross; it was occupied, cluttered, cramped. It became an extension of my bedroom, and thus an extension of myself.” (ll. 102- 105) Finally, Keegan’s personal examples are greatly relatable, and thus her essay becomes typological and hereby portrays how teenage life is in general.
The main themes explored in “Stability in Motion” are that of transforming identity and teenage life. Keegan maps her experiences, which shape and transform her identity using the motif of her first car. The vivid and graphic depiction of the cluttered insides of her car, as well as the events that have taken place inside of it, maps the author’s journey. Clothes and food are symbolic for a chaotic lifestyle. The movies, books and the time she spent studying for school are symbolic of the essayist discovering herself and the world through culture and learning. All these experiences illuminates how the years through adolescent are a passage to adulthood, a time of learning and experimenting, which gradually transform the author’s perspective. The writer’s message with her essay is that more often than not, the thing we own can become a reflection of our personalities and the transformation we go through if one is willing to notice.