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Book Review: Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell (Essay Sample)


Highlight the major thematic concerns of Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell

Book Review: Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell
Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell is a collection of nonfictional essays that explores the author’s transition from youth-hood into adulthood as a young woman, and the challenges that she faced along the way. Specifically, the book’s overlapping themes revolve around love, lust, longing and loneliness that individuals experience when transiting through early adulthood. The most remarkable aspect of Caldwell’s essays, however, is her sincerity and openness in sharing her own experiences. In a carefree manner that may make most people blush, Caldwell narrates the story of her life with astounding honesty as she traces her experiences as a baby sitter, a drug abuser, and guilt-less sexual maniac.
The book’s title captures the subject that the author explores. “Legs Get Led Astray” portrays the situation in which people usually find themselves in at some point in their life; losing control over their lives. The author’s experiences suggest that getting one’s legs led astray is not just getting lost in the literal sense, but also throwing away caution in order to be adventurous and experience self discovery. Individuals learn about themselves not only by forming relationships with others, but also through own experiences. In the author’s case, self discovery involved having plenty of sex with several lovers, enjoying herself in any way she can, experiencing heartbreaks, doing drugs, and living without a care or apology. The author suggests the idea that people learn about themselves by living their lives without any reservations whatsoever. She is neither worried by the possible consequences of her actions nor restricted by the values that govern society. As a result, she does not regard her sexual escapes as an immorality, but as a means of living life to the fullest. She does not deny herself what she desires, be it sexual satisfaction or the ecstasy of hard drugs.
In this regard, Legs Get Led Astray is a representation of the uncertainties of youth-hood and the vulnerability of charting new territories in the journey of maturing into an adult. Caldwell shows that when one goes astray by being adventurous, anything can happen. Like the odds of a stray bullet hitting someone, life is a journey that exposes the individual to opportunities and risks alike. The bottom line is that leading a carefree life- getting astray by deviating from societal values- exposes the individual to may possibilities. In Caldwell’s case, getting astray (doing drugs and engaging in carefree sex) was a window for a greater understanding of herself. Through her experiences, Caldwell comes out as a loving, caring, and decent person. She is capable of loving with all her heart, and giving all herself to the person she loves. She writes that “I am the type of person who will give anything to anyone I feel I could love” (Caldwell 116). This is evidenced in the essay “Yes to Carrots,” where she confesses to being crazy about another woman’s boyfriend and even “sucking his cock religiously” (p. 92). This uninhibited expression of her feelings shows the extent to which her getting astray has liberated her from the restrictions of social values. She is not worried about the promiscuous nature of her sex relationships as long as she achieves fulfillment from them.
The themes of freedom and sexuality connect all the essays, which the author portrays as her response to the loneliness she experienced as a youth transitioning into adulthood. Therefore, the transition phase into adulthood is the stage at which one cannot avoid getting led astray. It is the stage of self discovery, exploration, and adventure. It is the stage in live when individuals learn how to live “true and well” to their beliefs, as well as experiencing the joys and challenges of finding meaning in life. The metaphorical significance of the collection’s title comes out in that it portrays how the author “slips off-course” by getting into drugs. However, the point is not lost that getting astray is a necessary experience for self-discovery. It is when one is “lost” that he or she gets to reflect and learn about himself or herself. For the author, the sexual escapades and drug encounters were a kind of experimentation through which she rediscovered herself. For a while, the author suggests, it is inevitable to defy normalcy and societal values and learn from one’s mistakes, from the experience of living as a social rebel. Her honest (and seemingly shameless) listing of the numbers of lovers she had in “Long May You Run” shows her search for fulfilling love. Regarding her pursuit of love, she states:
But my own legs had this idea that getting on airplanes-- that walking down ramp ways with a suitcase on wheels, that running away in a sense, would help me find whatever it was that I was looking for because he made it clear to me he could not give it to me. My legs were steps ahead of me- they were thinking maybe someone I could love lived on the West Coast. What if I was in the wrong place? I had to check. My legs wanted to open widely for someon...
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