Joan Didion had messed up on a job and had nothing to do since. So on the cold spring of 1967, she decided to go to San Francisco, where her essay Slouching Towards Bethlehem takes place. San Francisco is a place where there are full of hippies. In her essay, she illustrates the detailed encounters with the hippies and portrays their personalities and lifestyles. Although Joan Didion describes the hippies as immature, she also feels pity for their situation at the same time. Didion expresses that the hippies are very immature and uses different examples to back it up.
She goes to Deadeye’s place and sees that there are several people living with him. She talks about how they are all lazy because, as grown-ups, they do not know how to take care of themselves nor the house. Looking around the room, Didion sees “a girl on the floor … has been sleeping for twenty-four hours…”, “the friend… who extends one arm but does not get up because he is naked”, and “couple of girls in pajamas making instant coffee” (87). It can be inferred that the house is very dirty and that these people do not clean up after themselves, showing the terrible way those people lived.
Then she goes into another example about a boy named Jeff, who ran away from home because he did not like his parents for having high expectations for him, such as maintaining his grades and doing chores around the house. Jeff says that, “If I didn’t finish ironing my shirts for the week I couldn’t go out for the weekend” and “I had a C average and… I couldn’t date until I raised it” (91). These are things that he should not be complaining about because they should know how to take care of their own clothes at the very least and he is in the age when he should be putting academics above social life.
This shows Didion’s attitude of how a 16-year-old boy is very immature, complaining about his daily life. Although Didion considered them to be immature, she also pitied the hippies for living such lives. She found three drunk girls, hanging around rock groups. Out of the three, two of them “still have baby fat” (90). These girls are not at the age where they should be drinking or live “on the celebrity and power and sex a band projects” (90). These girls are taking interest in the areas they should not even be thinking about, but only the instant pleasure they would get.
They should be focusing on getting education to pursue their goals in their lives. It seems as if they do not care about what going to happen to their future. An even greater example is when Didion walks into Otto’s house, she sees a 5-year-old girl on acid. It is really tragic to see such a really young girl on acid, especially because “her mother has given her both acid and peyote” (128). The mother should be encouraging her child to live a drug-free life, but instead she exposes it to her at an early age. Imagine how the young girl’s life would turn out as she gets older.
She would end up hanging out with the wrong crowd, living a reckless life. What a way for the mother to plan their own child’s future… It is clear to the readers that the hippies are living such pathetic lives, yet they seem to enjoy it. They do have the right to live their lives the way they want; however, they should not make choices that will ruin their lives and lead them to failure. Instead they should try to work their way up to success. The hippies should get their senses together and start living a proper life, such as getting education, and stopping drug usage.