In “Goodbye to All That,” Joan Didion writes that the “lesson” of her story is that “it is distinctly possible to remain too long at the Fair.” Throughout the story, the author implies that one may have magical places in his or her imagination, but living in a place that he or she imagines as magical or dreamy can turn into a very upsetting experience. The purpose of Didion’s writing was to provide evidence for this idea, and she managed to do it by revealing her understanding of the situation in which she had found herself after eight years spent in New York City, describing her feelings about this understanding, and explaining the consequences of learning this lesson.
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First of all, the author came to the understanding that it was possible to remain too long at the fair when she analyzed the life she was living. She realized that, despite the idealistic image of New York she had, the place to which she had dedicated eight years of her life was not so splendid after all. An example of this realization is the fact that, in New York, according to Didion, everyone was trying to meet “new faces,” but everyone failed to do so. When going with her friend to a party where she had been promised to meet new faces, Didion was made fun of my friend, as he laughed and revealed that, at the party, they were going to, “he had already slept with five of the women and owed money to all but two of the men.” Over the years, the magical place Didion had been in love with was becoming more and more boring.
The author’s feelings about this understanding were primarily associated with being depressed. She says that she “cried until [she] was not even aware when [she] was crying and when [she] was not, [she] cried in elevators and in taxis and in Chinese laundries.” Didion was experiencing the emptiness and meaninglessness of her life in New York, the city that kept disappointing her, not because it was a bad place to live but because it was not the place she had been dreaming of living in.
Finally, the main point of the story is that the author got to learn the lesson after all. After she had moved to Los Angeles, her life became significantly more enjoyable, and when she visited New York again, she saw that “everyone was ill and tired.” Upon realizing that illusions are not a good place to live in, Didion left her illusion and created a different life for herself. This shows how living in New York City and perceiving it as a dreamy place ultimately taught her the lesson of appreciating real experiences more than illusionary ones.