Joan Didion "Los Angeles Notebook" - Santa Ana Winds Excerpt

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In this given excerpt from the essay “Los Angeles Notebook”, the author Joan Didion describes the mood in a community expecting the Santa Ana winds. Didion uses a tone of bitterness to portray the community’s reaction to an inevitable event that they cannot control. The imagery describes the Santa Ana winds as a supernatural phenomenon, and the uncertainty associated with the occurrence of the event is enough to put people in a state of anxiety and paranoia. Joan Didion juxtaposes the insanity of the Santa Ana winds with the instability of human nature in response to fear. Didion provides an imitation of human behavior during a state of panic by using the Santa Ana winds as a symbol for the general fear or worry that leads humans to act aberrantly. Didion uses various paradoxes in her physical description of nature anticipating the Santa Ana winds. “The Pacific turned ominously glossy during a Santa Ana period, and one woke in the night troubled not only by the peacocks screeching in the olive trees but by the eerie absence of surf” (Didion lines 20-23). Didion writes in an eerie tone to redefine this “calm before the storm” as a dangerously deceitful appearance. The “ominously glossy” Pacific Ocean appears brightly exposed, but it is assumed to be very dark and mysterious. The screeching of peacocks is imaginary, and one should not be woken by an absence of surf as it would not make noise. It becomes obvious that Didion’s irrational suspicion is meant to ridicule humans’ behavior when they are anticipating a disaster because their fear causes them to act paranoid. Didion’s neighbors are fearful in anticipation of the Santa Ana winds, and their fear causes them to imagine things and become overly protective of themselves. “My only neighbor would not come out of her house for days, and there were no lights at night, and her husband roamed the place with a machete.

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