Analyzing Running with Scissors

Running-with-scissorsI want to start adding in academic writing that I’ve done. I put a lot of research and effort into the papers I wrote in college and am quite proud of them. The following is an analysis of Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors (aka one of my favorite novels/authors <3).

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In Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors the fascination with media since childhood and the influence it has had on his life and the way he leads it is clearly depicted from the start. Augusten begins as the sole audience for his mother, at first indulging in her poems and encouraging her approach to life. “My mother is a star. She’s just like that lady on TV, Maude…My mother is a star like Maude” (6). He saw the way she acted as entertainment, which is how a dysfunctional person must seem to a child at times, and compared her to different television programs that shaped his day. Since there was little to no guidance in his life or attention from either parent, Augusten sought out television to help him draw conclusions about what normal is. This sort of life was what appealed to him at a young age and his mothers constant mention of how she was going to be famous one day was what young Augusten believed to be reality. Since he was just an impressionable child, it made sense that this was what normal people aspired for and fame was easily obtainable. It helped to shape his narcissism as well, a quality shared with his mother. She spoke to others only to hear her voice and obtain positive, forced feedback for her poetry while Augusten stared at a mirror and perfected his hair. Since he was never provided with any discipline or taught basic life lessons that could have made his transition into adulthood smoother and more natural, he had to rely on television for this assistance. Instead she created the idea that the reality one was given was not ideal, and that something better was always out there in the form of materialistic treasures and money. This mindset was why Augusten had such a fascination with shiny items and polishing different metals until they sparkled like they were new; he wanted stardom and materiality so that he could have normalcy. He wanted his mom to be a mother from television so he could have a predictable and overall happy life.

As Augusten grew up and started to realize that his mom had clear mental issues, he wanted to distance himself from her and the world that she was in. He had become a part of a world that did not resemble the television shows he idealized as a child, and he wanted nothing more than to change that and move away from the characters that surrounded him. Augusten despised his mother because of her own narcissism which inadvertently had created his. He craved attention because he never received any growing up. His father was an alcoholic that wanted to escape from the family, and his mother spoke at her son and never really included him in her escapades. He was there as an audience member to her one-person performance, but was never able to join in the act. Without these key parental figures, he was unable to transition into life correctly; he had no boundaries (which becomes more of an issue when he started living at the Finch house and was able to do whatever he wanted) and an unending desire for love. Augusten kept his relationship with Bookman going because the older man was so obsessed with him, even though he did not share these feelings in return. At a young age, Augusten also became obsessed with perfecting his appearance in the hopes that someone, anyone would pay him some sort of compliment or give him positive reinforcement that his mother constantly denied him. He had to care about his appearance and obsess over himself because there was nobody else to do that for him – until Bookman.

The way Augusten started to view the promise of becoming a celebrity was another way for him to escape the life that he had been thrown into due to the carelessness of his mother. He had the desire to start a two person singing sensation with Natalie and also a goal to design hair care products solely for having a famous label. Both of these dreams were ways that he could become a rich celebrity and leave behind the life where he had to scrounge together coins to go to McDonalds. There was also the situation where Dr. Finch “helped” him to escape going to school and convinced him to fake a suicide attempt by overdosing. Coincidentally, Bill Cosby’s daughter was in his class and he could not stand her, which was what drove him away from school. She was the constant reminder that there was normalcy out there in the way that he believed that it was brought to people: by fame, money, and a healthy upbringing – not a crazy failed poet mother. “Instead of becoming depressed that I was in the locked ward of a mental hospital, I pretended I was playing a role in a movie, possibly on my way to an Emmy” (132). To be content with any of the strange things going on in his life that deep down he understood were dangerous and not necessarily right, Augusten needed to pretend that he was in a new situation and a new life so that he could justify it all and escape the current situation by pretending to be somewhere else.

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