Study Guide

How I Live Now Suffering

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D the D would have liked to poison me slowly till I turned black and swelled up like a pig and died in agony but I guess that plan flopped when I refused to eat anything. (1.4.5)

Daisy and Leah's theory (of questionable validity) about her evil stepmother marks the moment she starts down the path of deliberate suffering. Starvation for Daisy is a form of suffering she can control, and thus head off other forms of suffering outside her immediate control.

It was the first time in as long as I could remember that hunger wasn't a punishment or a crime or a weapon or a mode of self-destruction. (1.11.12)

This line represents the only moment in the book where Daisy talks about all the purposes that hunger and starvation and suffering serve for her, in essence explaining why she has been doing what she has been doing. Bet her shrinks would have given a lot to have access to this level of honesty and self-awareness.

I tried eating more so Edmond would stop looking at me that way and after a week or so he even said I looked better by which I'm sure he meant fatter so I cut back some after that. (1.11.18)

Oh, Daisy. Just when she starts to take a healthy turn so her cousins stop exchanging worried glances over her wellness and appetite, she manages to completely misinterpret a compliment from Edmond (the unfortunate joys of disordered eating) and goes right back into destructo-mode.

He just looks at me in a sad sort of way with his tired eyes and says very softly Aren't there enough troubles in the world without this too? And for once I don't know what to say. (1.12.11)

Sigh. This kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Daisy doesn't even know how to respond to the soldier, in the midst of a war, who has undoubtedly seen countless suffering thrust upon people through no fault of their own. And yet, she's willingly to consciously undertake her own suffering.

I caught her looking pretty puzzled a few times when she saw me nibbling at bits of lunch when everyone else was wolfing down anything in sight and I could tell, war or no war, she was thinking If Only I Had Her Self Control. (1.20.20)

Is it just us, or is Daisy nuts to be thinking that nibbling and picking at her food during wartime is something that everyone's just looking at with jealousy and admiration? We're guessing the girl looking at her is more likely wondering what the heck is wrong with Daisy, but that might just be us.

With nothing else to do except notice how hungry and thirsty we were and how much our blisters hurt we went to sleep and only woke up when the world started crashing with thunder […] but amazingly our little hut turned out to be watertight. (1.23.34)

What a beautiful moment, illustrating that it sometimes takes brutal suffering, misery, and pain to appreciate the little things you do have, like a roof over your head to protect you from the storm.

For the first time I noticed how skinny Piper was which once upon a time I would have thought was a good thing and now I thought was just what happens when you're nine years old and don't have enough food to grow properly. (1.24.12)

This is the first of several revelations for Daisy, the first moment it occurs to her that being skinny isn't always a good thing and maybe sometimes it actually means that you're starving and don't have enough food to eat, as is the case with Piper right now.

As I started to eat the pieces of mushroom I suddenly thought All this time I've been starving, and without noticing I said it out loud, so that Piper said So have I, without even looking up and I thought No you haven't, not in the same way and I hope you never are. (1.25.8)

Time for revelatory moment number two: It finally really hits Daisy that she's been starving herself this whole time. It's totally heartbreaking, though, when Piper says that she has been, too.

One funny thing was that I didn't look but different from the day I arrived in England but the difference now was I ate what I could. Somewhere along the line I'd lost the will not to eat. (1.28.13)

Here we witness moment of reflection for Daisy about her transformation. On the surface, things are similar, but beneath the surface, her attitude toward suffering, pain, self-destruction, and starvation has totally turned around. Wartime struggles have worn down her much-bragged about self-control.

I was not interested in starving, killing, slashing, depriving, maiming or punishing myself. (2.1.4)

Oh, how the tables have turned. Even back in New York, where we might expect Daisy to go back to her old ways and starve herself as a weapon, her transformation stands. Her will not to eat has been superseded by an even stronger will—to get back home, to England and her cousins.

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