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Opportunities and Dreams in Keegan’s Essays Essay

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Updated: Jul 31st, 2021

Almost all people have dreams, and everyone wants to achieve their most critical aspirations one day. However, that one day everybody waits for eventually does not come as goals change or are forgotten, and the hope is lost. These themes of unfortunate outcomes and subdued societal values are heavily discussed in Marina Keegan’s essays. They may not be immediately spotted due to the metaphorical form of Keegan’s writings. However, her words, like “humans are afraid of helping humans,” give us a hint that she talks about societal issues (Keegan, “Keegan: Why We Care about Whales”).

The writer’s powerful language features deep thought and spectacular discernment. Many of her pieces seem very different from each other. For instance, there is no apparent connection between whales and Yale graduates. However, upon careful inspection, it is clear that Keegan is very distressed about the status quo of the reality surrounding her. She wants to alter this state of affairs, yet is continuously forced into thinking that she is too unimportant to make any difference. Despite the presence of many opportunities and positive dreams and goals, most of them fail to be realized due to misleading values and aims set by surrounding society; this idea is present in almost all of Keegan’s works.

The Author

Keegan was an ambitious and enthusiastic person who believed that much could be done given that we have time. Unfortunately, she died when she was only twenty-two, leaving behind the many opportunities and dreams she wrote and talked about (“In Memory of Marina Keegan”). Her death is ironic as many of her pieces feature the theme of opportunities that are not used or goals that are not reached due to external factors. Despite her young age, Keegan was a writer with sophisticated thinking, who was able to discover the deep and hidden ideas in other writings (Hitt). However, her potential is never to be realized due to the events that are in someone else’s hands. Similarly to the fate of whales controlled by the Moon, events beyond our reach cause the loss of opportunities.

Lost Opportunities and Forgotten Dreams

At first glance, Keegan’s essays seem to be about personal experiences or considerations about environmental issues. Nevertheless, each of her stories is filled with the metaphor that can be related to an inability to make a difference, either due to society’s expectations or how people behave in general. In “Why we care about whales,” Keegan ponders why people care about whales and spend enormous amounts of financial resources to save them, but act lightly toward small fish.

Her thoughts model the current situation in contemporary society – the richest and the most privileged receive all the attention and opportunities while the rest of the people have to experience neglect. By talking about how these resources could be instead used to save, for instance, starving people, she does not object to environmental ventures but raises concerns for equal opportunity (Keegan, “Keegan: Why We Care about Whales”). At the end of the essay, she even proposes a potential solution – when she says that she could use her money to host helpless people, Keegan indicates that with everyone’s involvement the current state of affairs can be changed.

“Stability in motion” is a story about how ordinary objects may become part of our lives. Keegan tells about her car and related experiences from the beginning until the end when she gives it away as a gift. However, the theme of unequal opportunity is also present in this piece. She receives the car as a gift from her grandmother, and then the car passes to Keegan’s brother (Keegan, “Stability in Motion” 109).

This story can be perceived as how opportunity travels from one privileged individual to another, never reaching the others. Although Keegan’s car was not some high-priced vehicle, she was able to live the experiences she describes in the text only since she had the chance to have this car for a ridiculous amount of money – one dollar (Keegan, “Stability in Motion” 111). This essay can be related to the current reality where the rich become more prosperous and the poor become more disadvantaged.

All people have dreams as they tend to believe that they are different from others and have distinctive attributes. Keegan shared the same belief and said that this characteristic of human beings extended to previous generations as well (Keegan, “Keegan: Song for the Special”). However, revolutions in technology and the spread of the internet made people think that they are not as exceptional as they might think.

Keegan supports this idea by her experience of searching her name on Facebook – at least nine results (Keegan, “Keegan: Song for the Special”). This skepticism and doubt have an adverse impact on people’s abilities and pursuits. Today they do not have big dreams and extraordinary aspirations due to the belief that the opportunity will fall to another person’s hands but not theirs. Keegan shows that humans try to satisfy the expectations of society while quitting their own goals (Keegan, “Keegan: Song for the Special”). Even Keegan herself wanted to be unique, but there are so many people in the world that their importance is almost non-existent.

Keegan also talks about the very process of how dreams and goals become lost. The essay about her friends and group mates at Yale, “Even artichokes have doubts,” describes how talent is wasted because of the harsh reality created by society. Definition for “success” can be given by any person but is generally related to financial security. Keegan shows this by mentioning many of Yale’s graduates who had ambitious and global goals but had to give it all up due to their disbelief that their aspirations would bring any money.

Some individuals leave the activities they love and deem vital because of the majority’s influence. This idea is portrayed by Keegan when she tells about the graduate who applied for a job she did not want but then started thinking that it might be interesting (Keegan, “Even Artichokes Have Doubts”). Another problem of contemporary society is that people are more likely to accept reality as it is and choose a process that is ready-made. Such an attitude leads to a waste of talent and excellent opportunities to change the world.

There are also others who actually decide to try and achieve their aims and aspirations despite all that internal disbelief. For such people, however, the surrounding culture and established ideas have different hindrances. Some may view “Against the Grain” as the author’s struggle with her allergy to gluten, but it is about how Keegan attempted to go against the system and lost. Throughout her childhood and school years, Keegan systematically accomplishes the decrees of her mother and is very careful with the food she consumes (Keegan, “Against the Grain” 116). Keegan routinely checks each product she devours for any presence of gluten (Keegan, “Against the Grain” 117).

Instead of helping and sharing their empathy, however, people start to ridicule her. This situation can be related to persons who attempt to make a difference and change the world for the better but are objected by people that label them as lunatics. Due to the culture we live in, even some individuals, who decide to stay true to their talent and dreams instead of wasting them, are defeated by stagnant society.

Call for Action

After sharing her concerns and distress about the defective system, in “Putting the fun back in Eschatology,” Keegan calls for immediate action. She says that humans might be the only intelligent beings in the universe, meaning that each one of them can make the difference (Keegan, “Putting the Fun Back in Eschatology”). People should not limit themselves to the opinions of others. The doubt will always exist the same way as scientists doubt the exclusiveness of the civilization. Keegan claims that each one of us is responsible for striving for a sustainable life and for caring about the planet (Keegan, “Putting the Fun Back in Eschatology”). The talent should not be wasted as it is dissipated today because of expectations set by others.


Keegan was an extraordinary writer, but unfortunately, her dream to become special did not live long. Her notable works have much in common, as almost every piece is a philosophical work that ponders why the talent is wasted and opportunities do not reach everyone. These concerns are not evident at first glance due to Keegan’s style of writing. Furthermore, the main topics of the essays are distant from one another. However, the hidden themes highlight how contemporary society destructs aspirations and how people abandon their dreams.

Works Cited

Hitt, Jack. “.” The New Yorker, 2012. Web.

The New Yorker, 2012. Web.

Keegan, Marina. “Against the Grain.” The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories, Scribner, 2014, pp. 116-122.

—. “Yale Daily News. 2011. Web.

—. “Yale Daily News. 2011. Web.

—. “Yale Daily News. 2009. Web.

—. “Putting the Fun Back in Eschatology.” Yale Daily News. 2010. Web.

—. “Stability in Motion.” The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories, Scribner, 2014, pp. 108-111.

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