Free Essays – Self-Destruction in She’s Come Undon

e She’s Come Undone
She’s Come Undone – Self-Destruction
In She’s Come Undone Wally Lamb addresses the effects of personal trauma on one’s self-image and the propensity of survivors to move towards self-destruction. Dolores believes that she is the cause of all of her tragedies, including her rape and her mother’s death, and that the one true evil in her life is herself. She convinces herself that she deserves whatever pain she may receive along the course of life. With each new hardship, her guilt is increased. Her destruction begins with overeating and culminates in attempted suicide.
When Dolores is in eighth grade she is raped by Jack, one of her grandmother’s tenants. She had always had a crush on Jack and allowed him to give her rides to and from school. She decides that he must have been encouraged by her actions and that therefore the rape is her fault.
Shortly after Dolores is raped, Jack’s wife, Rita, has a miscarriage. Although Rita has had many miscarriages before, Dolores is sure that this one is a result of “the filthy thing that {she and Jack} had done” (Lamb 111). From then on, Dolores considers herself to be a “baby-killer” (112).
During her high school years, Dolores’ only companions are her television and her junk food. She isolates herself from her peers. She eats constantly and becomes extremely overweight. She also takes up smoking. Although her doctor warns her that her lifestyle is putting her health in serious danger, she continues to binge and smoke. She does not feel that her life is worth worrying about (126).
Shortly after Dolores’ high school graduation, Dolores’ mother is killed when she is hit by a semi truck. Dolores blames herself and reasons that her mother’s death must be Dolores’ punishment for being a horrible daughter. She recalls what her mother said on the night of her death: “You’ve made me so … tired” (135). She remembers how awful she was to her mother during the months before her death (138). She feels that she should have died instead of her mother. She bargains with God to bring her mother back and take her instead (138).
Dolores’ self-destruction culminates in attempted suicide. She hires a taxi to take her to Cape Cod, where she plans to commit suicide amongst the beached whales. Her life experiences and the guilt they have caused have become too much for her to handle (251).
One reviewer stated that She’s Come Undone is a tale of a young woman overcome with life’s problems (Publisher’s Weekly 59). Dolores’ inability to deal with these problems in a healthy way causes her spiral towards self-destruction. Wally Lamb thoroughly explores the devastating effects that overwhelming guilt can have on a person’s spirit.