When reading The Diary of Alice James I found the gaps between her entries fascinating; these gaps began to interest me more than the entries themselves—my attention caught by what Alice didn’t write, rather than what she did. Professor Dalke suggested creating a visual representation of the diary to see where the gaps fell in the thirty-five months Alice kept her diary. I used a chart system, one chart for each year she wrote, and I chose red to represent the gap days for its contrast to black and white, and to emphasize the gaps more than the entries.
There is, numerically, little change over time in the number of days Alice wrote in her diary. In 1889, her first year of writing, she had forty-six entries, in 1890, fifty-seven, and in 1891 forty-five entries. Alice’s last year, 1892, has only nine entries, for she died in early March. The relative consistency in her writing across the years implies Alice had a similar ratio of good to bad days in a year. Her entries are arrayed in spurts, which suggest Alice felt strong in spurts—some days have two entries. In the 1,009 days Alice kept her diary and could possibly have written in it, she wrote a total of 157 days. 157 days covers only 15% of her time, suggesting she was unable to write (whether incapacitated by weakness, pain or hysteria,) 85% of the time!
The visual representations of Alice’s diary offer a different image of Alice than her caustic, well-informed political and personal commentaries provide; the striking number of red rectangles reveals a woman in unbearable pain nearly all of the time, but one whose will was strong enough to rally her to write and exercise her wit for the small amounts of time she could.
|Wits-AJ diary chart.xls ||27 KB|