- Pages: 7
- Word count: 1545
- Category: Anorexia
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Realistic Anorexic Characteristics Noelle T. Casagrain Laurie Halse Anderson perfectly captures the isolation and motivations of anorexia in her novel Wintergirls, making it a good resource to use in your classroom for students and caregivers. Anderson did her research of what it was like to be anorexic as well as battled with anorexia herself. Lia, the main character, is a realistic source of what it is like to be in shoes of someone battling anorexia. Empathy is important to teach in a classroom to make sure everyone feels welcomed and accepted. Students can relate to people like Lia and understand the battle of suffering they go through before they get help. In the novel, her friend’s death turns Lia away from cutting and self-starvation. Suffering, feeling alone and broken. Destructive behaviors that control Lia with every action and thought feeling more and more hopeless. She lives for the thrill of not eating. She does make some progression toward eating normal but all progress is depleted when her best friend Cassie dies by herself, alone in a hotel room.
The trauma of Cassie’s death coupled with Lia’s poor relationship with her family makes her focus on not eating because it is simply the only thing she can control in her life. Anderson has created a protagonist who has many layers that shape the story and struggles throughout the book. For example, Lia is broken, her whole world is in ruins, her best friend just died, parents are divorced, she’s losing a battle against anorexia, but she continues on with her life. She puts on a mask that hides her struggles from the outside world. Lia also has another side to her, a ‘real Lia’ side, that cares and loves her sister, a side that still wants a normal life. Lia is battling an internal conflict and shows that she hasn’t fully crossed over to become a Wintergirl. Anderson starts the novel off with a cliffhanger to grab the audience’s attention by stating,’…my walls go up and my doors lock. I nod like I’m listening, like we’re communicating, and she never knows the difference”(1). From the beginning of the story, the damaged Lia, wasn’t ready to let anyone help her. She wanted to remain ‘strong’ in her anorexic state. The way she saw herself was distorted, and her vision of the future was not reassuring due to her lack of nutrients.Using a cliff hanger allows the reader to question what’s going to happen next, why is Lia so removed from her surroundings. Winter is a symbol within the novel. Lia called herself a wintergirl to connect with others who also have an eating disorder.
Throughout the book we see Lia being cold, frozen and out deep in the snow. Another example that plays into the bigger picture of why Lia calls herself a winter girl is the lack of nutrition leaving her not dead or alive, just frozen in time as if it did not matter whether she was there with anyone. The snow represent how serious as well as how deep the disorder has taken over. Lia has been completely taken over by haunting of Cassie after she dies alone. The constant haunting and Cassie’s voice to join her with the wintergirls drives Lia to self harm and suffer. Anderson uses personification to emphasize on the suffering Lia is going through as Cassie haunts her until she is pushed to self harms,’I stick Band-Aids on my weeping cuts, put on pink pajamas so we match, and snuggle with her under her rainbow comforter’ (75). By giving the cut humanistic traits of weeping allows the reader to get a better picture of what the cut looks like, you can imagine someone physically weeping therefore it allows you to imaging the pain of the cut. A group psychologist took the time to do research at an Idaho University on recovering anorexic people and discovered that a lot of victims also feel like Lia in the novel. For example there is one victim who feels haunted as she states, “At work I keep thinking that, at any minute, I’m going to be found out. Everyone thinks I’m doing a good job but I feel like I’m getting away with something and at the next step, the next task or promotion, I’ll blow it.
I live in terror that they’ll see through me, see I really cannot do the job. It’s ludicrous; I do, do the job–why am I haunted by these fears?”(Siegel ). Both the diagnosed victim of anorexia and Lia feel haunted, therefor Lia is a realistic character that suffer from anorexia. Cassie continues to haunts to the point where Lia feels the need to join her and self harm to become a wintergirl. Anderson switches the tense to put emphasis on how Lia deals with her internal conflict, ‘I win. I won. I’m lost.’ (223) Lia reaches the rock bottom of her desperation as feels the need to give up and join Cassie as wintergirl. Her sister finds her on the bathroom floor bleeding out. Lia feels as if she is still competing with Cassie to become the skinniest in the school. Lauren Grunebaum L.C.S.W. is the author of the Psychology Today Journal and researched characteristics of an being anorexic, elements of what she found in her research described Lia perfectly.
For example Grunebaum states,“Individuals with eating disorders are often perfectionists and there is an element of competition among them. Anorexia sufferers want to be the ‘best’ anorexic, the anorexic who can eat the least and get down to the lowest weight. In essence, she (or he) strives to be the best at starving herself” (Grunebaum). The feel of competition ultimately lead Lia to hit rock bottom before she sees realizes the tools to start building a foundation of getting better. Anderson uses irony, to emphasis on all of the things that Lia has failed. The irony is she believes she is stable and okay after telling herself, ‘I failed eating, failed drinking, failed not cutting myself into shreds. Failed friendship. Failed sisterhood and daughterhood. Failed mirrors and scales and phone calls. Good thing I’m stable.’ (227) The first part to getting help is admitting to yourself you have a problem, Lia does exactly that as she mocks the doctors who said she is fine. Lia list everything she failed at she discovers and admits to herself the stem of what caused her to become anorexia. Its ironic that the doctors think she is okay as she mocks them when they are probing her to use self-talk to cope with the depression. WebMd is a journal put together for people to get more information on diagnosed disorders and diseases.
Eating Disorders and Depression and How They are Related written by Peter Jaret confirms the constant feeling of failure being common among people with anorexia because the feel the need to be perfect (Jaret). Later in the book we see that Lia finally getting help and she decides she wants to get better and be alive again. Lia strives to see her actual strengths rather her thinness and her ability to say no to her hunger pains. Help in the start to a long path of recovery. Anderson’s word choices and syntax create a strong, realistic character and empower Lia’s words to herself, ‘I am beginning to measure myself in strength, not pounds. Sometimes in smiles’ (275). With these words, Anderson shows the character transformation from not wanting to be alive to wanting to be alive again. She has found what makes herself strong and is working to improve her distorted vision of what strength is.This is one of the first times that Lia allows herself to ignore the number on a scale but rather use the scale to prove her strength to overcome anorexia. Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC the author Eating Disorder Hope, her focus is to help those struggling with anorexia, she states,“..the most crucial skills necessary to recover from an eating disorder is to develop a relentlessly nurturing, comforting, supportive and loving inner dialogue with yourself.
This dialogue needs to replace the often constant barrage of eating disorder thoughts that are critical, self-deprecating and dishonoring of your individuality, beauty, and substance” (Ekern). Once Lia started to use positive self talk like Ekern states she starts to unthaw and and start to return to the normal life she once lived. But it will be a long journey, Lia will continue to go to therapy to receive individual care. To conclude Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson use of character development throughout the novel is accurate and realistic to realize how important it is to get proper help for individuals who are suffering day to day with symptoms and signs of Anorexia.
Therefore using Anderson’s novel in the classroom for students and caregivers as a resource is important. By highlighting what it is like to be anorexic allows students and caregivers to gain empathy and take the right steps for helping loved ones battle anorexia just like Laurie Halse Anderson did for millions of people who suffer everyday from anorexia. gel. “Hidden Feelings from Surviving an Eating Disorder.” BYU-Idaho, Idaho University, www.byui.edu/counseling-center/hidden-feelings.