The student news site of Brimmer and May School | Chestnut Hill, MA

The Gator

The student news site of Brimmer and May School | Chestnut Hill, MA

The Gator

The student news site of Brimmer and May School | Chestnut Hill, MA

The Gator

“A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara: A Profound Exploration of Human Existence and Friendship

In an astonishingly flawless 814 pages, Yanagihara captures not merely “a little life” but the sprawling tapestry of human existence. She masterfully weaves together the intricacies of friendship, love, trauma, and resilience with a depth and intensity that leaves an indelible mark on the reader’s soul.
Photo+Courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In the hauntingly beautiful novel “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara, the narrative centers around four men who relocate to New York City and, over the course of three decades, grow both their careers and their relationships. “A Little Life” paints a deeply unsettling picture, one that compels readers to throw down the book and call it quits, while simultaneously compelling them to keep reading. 

In the initial fifty pages or so, we follow Willem, JB, Jude, and Malcolm as they attend parties, change residences, engage in disagreements, and cook for one another. Their lives are so intricately intertwined that it’s challenging to envision a time when they were not close friends.

However, it swiftly becomes apparent that Yanagihara has far grander plans for her characters than the typical postgraduate New York ensemble novel, with Jude emerging as the central figure. The main giveaway is the 700 pages of the novel that the reader is left to explore.

As we begin to unravel glimpses of each character’s past and present struggles, it becomes painfully evident that Jude is not merely a young lawyer and mathematician striving for success; he is battling profound childhood trauma and a chronic disability that subjects him to excruciating episodes of pain.

Initially, it seems that Jude prefers solitude and avoids unburdening himself like JB or Willem. However, when Jude is rushed to the doctor late at night by Willem, bleeding profusely, it becomes evident that he is much more troubled than anyone guessed, including his friends who have known him for so long.  

Following this distressing incident and a disconcerting description of one of Jude’s episodes, Yanagihara delves deeper into the rawness of Jude’s suffering, gradually unveiling the horrors that haunt his psyche.

Although Jude’s character and his unwillingness to accept love may seem bewildering at first, the full weight of his self-disdain only becomes comprehensible when the author delves into his traumatic past.

While it is not difficult to anticipate that Jude’s childhood was profoundly disturbing, the true, stomach-churning horrors of his past are simply unimaginable. 

As the reader dives deeper into Jude’s past, his character becomes hauntingly relatable, his every action and thought deeply understandable but profoundly disturbing. Jude’s torment reaches such nightmarish proportions that it becomes the reader’s own torment.

I found it to be a beautifully written exploration of suffering.

— Kenley Smith

The friendship that Jude, Willem, Malcolm, and JB share becomes the guiding light within Jude’s world of darkness, keeping him and the reader afloat. 

Unlike many other longer novels, “A Little Life” does not utilize a story plot or centers around a specific event, but is constructed solely around the characters and their development. 

As English Teacher Kenley Smith aptly put it, “I found it to be a beautifully written exploration of suffering.”

In an astonishingly flawless 814 pages, Yanagihara captures not merely “a little life” but the sprawling tapestry of human existence. She masterfully weaves together the intricacies of friendship, love, trauma, and resilience with a depth and intensity that leaves an indelible mark on the reader’s soul.

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About the Contributor
Amelia Bowman
Amelia Bowman, Editor-in-Chief
Amelia has been on The Gator for five semesters, since the start of her freshman year. She enjoys writing op-eds, current events, and reviews. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, and rock climbing.  

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