Richard E. Miller’s essay “The Dark Night of the Soul,” examines a multitude of aspects of society, culture, and understanding all in reference to what the process of writing and reading is capable of and not capable of accomplishing. He begins his essay by discussing the tragedy that befell Columbine High School in 1999 along with other related mass violence at various schools. He explains that Eric Harris’ note, at least to Miller, is representational of the writer’s desire to be immortalized. Miller is clearly not stating that Harris and Klebold were writers or that their actions should be considered anything other than horrific; he is actually making a comment about the nature of the psyche of the writer.
He moves on to discuss Martin Amis’ novel The Information, which examines the psyche of the writer as self-absorbed, pretentious artist that is above everyone else and ultimately destructive towards others. Miller discusses Chris McCandless’ adventure and Jon Krakauer’s desire to explain it, stating that McCandless “believed he was free” (16). Miller continues on by looking at the meditations of Rene Descartes, which, for Descartes, ultimately led to a proof in God. Miller speculates on the reasoning for Descartes to write his meditations suggesting Descartes may have been trying to develop a proof of God’s existence or simply trying to appease himself and other believers. He then discusses memoir via Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club.
Ultimately, Miller states that Mary Karr found both hope and forgiveness in the act of writing her memoir. He ends the essay by explaining that at one point or another, people experience what he calls “placelessness” (26). Miller hopes that by writing his own meditations, he will come to a place of understanding that the act of writing and reading will enrich people, give them hope, and move them to a state that takes them through the horrors and into a state of action.
Miller, Richard E. "The Dark Night of the Soul." Writing at the End of the World. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2005. 1-27. Print.