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Miller claimed that her car accidentally caught on fire after a nail in her tire caused her to hit the curb. However, prosecutors claimed that Mrs. Miller intentionally poured gas on her unconscious husband and then attempted to drive the car over an embankment. When the car would not navigate the embankment, Mrs. Miller was accused of lighting her husband on fire and watching him burn.

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Didion presents the case with the opinion that it was the expectations of grandeur prevalent in San Bernardino that put Mrs. Miller in a position to believe it was reasonable for her to kill her husband in order to achieve her heart's desire, another man.

Then Didion turns her attention to movie idol John Wayne. The author writes her essay in the aftermath of Wayne's first bout with cancer. As a fan and a personal friend, Didion is devastated by Wayne's illness and writes as an ode to his strength. Then, she writes about Joan Baez and her school of non-violence. From here, the author chooses to include an essay on a Communist she once interviewed and an essay on the public's obsession with the rumors swirling around recluse billionaire Howard Hughes.

After this, Didion writes an observation on politics in California and the absurdity of young couples getting married in Las Vegas. Didion's essay is a grouping of her observations of the people in the area as she spent time attempting to interview key people involved in the movement.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem | The Saturday Evening Post

Didion presents her observations with a tone that is an attempt at objectivity; however, the reader can infer the author's disapproval of some of the situations she encounters, such as the teenagers who ran away from home because their parents did not approve of their style of dress and their choice of friendships. The collection then changes to a more personal tone. Didion begins this section with an essay about her habit of keeping notebooks. She uses the essay to try to figure out why she would have a habit of this kind when she cannot always remember what the notes mean.

The next essay is about self-respect, another on Hollywood, and another on morality. Finally, Didion includes an essay on going home to her family in Sacramento and the impact it has on her husband. The last section of the book covers many things, including the impact of war on Hawaii, the uniqueness of Alcatraz, and the beauty of Sonora. Didion ends her book with an essay on her reasons for leaving New York.

She moved to New York as a young woman looking for adventure, and she enjoyed her time in New York despite abject poverty, but with time and maturity discovers that a lack of naivety takes the fun out of living so far from everyone she knows and loves. Finally, Didion gives in to homesickness and returns to California to make a new life with her new husband.

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Mid-20th Century Writers: Joan Didion

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Slouching Towards Bethlehem Summary

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