I Love Her Hugs, A Critical Analysis

Christine Arnold presents: Christine Arnold’s “I Love Her Hugs, A Critical Analysis by: Christine Arnold”

 

The critically acclaimed “I Love Her Hugs” was written by Christine Arnold in Ms. Foreman’s second grade class circa 1999. In honor of Mother’s Day, we will take a deeper look at this–one of Arnold’s earliest works–written for her very own mother, Denise Arnold. Please note that throughout my analysis, the author is referred to as “Arnold”, where as Denise Arnold is referred to as “Mommy” or “Mom.”

I love my Mommy because she cooks very, very, good food, like spaghetti. My Mom’s name is Denise Arnold. I love her hugs.

Arnold chooses to begin her piece with an example, so that the reader can immediately relate to the subject “Mommy.” Now, something else that is unique that I’d like to point out is the author’s choice to refer to her mother as capital “M” Mommy. It shows an almost capital “G” God-like adoration of the subject. This is present throughout the piece. She concludes her introduction with the title of the piece: “I love her hugs.” Many would choose to build up to such a tag line. Arnold, however, has a very “in your face” writing style in this piece. She chooses to let this bombshell of a statement smack the reader in the face right away. I. Love. Her. Hugs. Four simple words that would bring any mother to her knees in “awwwwwwww”s.

My Mom takes me and my sister to funny movies. She takes us out to dinner and to Fun Station. My Mom helps me with reading.

In this section of the piece, Arnold takes the time to establish her mother’s character by describing the ways in which her mother takes care of her. From this, we can gather that Mommy not only feeds Arnold, but she also values spending quality time with her and aiding in her education. It is important to point out that this piece was written when children still had to read from paper books, not iPads or tablets. Let that sink in: not only was Mom spending the time to help Arnold with her reading, but she was also presumably carrying these heavy books for her given Arnold’s young age at the time this piece was written. Arnold perfectly times the entrance of the second character “my sister”, while allowing for a bit of mystery by not including her name or really any details at all about her. This grabs the reader and entices them to keep reading.

She is very funny. My Mom has a big family with four sisters and one brother. My Mom is pretty all the time.

Two words for this section: vivid imagery. It’s easy to forget that Arnold was just the tender age of 8 at the time she wrote this piece, but she flawlessly delves deeper into Mom’s character by describing her personality, her upbringing, and her physical appearance. Note her use of strong language in this section: “very funny” and “pretty all the time.” It’s no secret how Arnold feels about Mommy, but again that’s just her no-bullshit writing style.

She takes me and Lauren to Wild Adventures. She lets me have very expensive places for my birthday parties.

Something I respect about Arnold’s writing is that she doesn’t “dumb it down” for the reader. Now here, she mentions “Lauren.” She doesn’t explicitly say this is her sister, but given the poignant introduction of “my sister” earlier, she lets the reader make the leap that Lauren is, in fact, the sister she so eloquently speaks of. I also find Arnold’s fascination with money in this section to be adorably out of character. It’s just the kind of zing that keeps the reader on their toes. Just when they think they have her figured out, she throws a curve ball.

My Mommy loves gardening. I decorated a flower pot for her. I got her a cute card. She likes it.

We have now hit my favorite section of this piece. See how Arnold carefully paints a picture of what Mommy likes, and how she caters to that. It really shows the reciprocity of the relationship between Mom and Arnold. This is perhaps the only place in the piece where Arnold breaks her meandering style and stays on topic for more than two sentences, which makes it stick out as something particularly important and special.

I love my Mommy because she let me get my ears pierced. I like it when she takes us to TCBY. My Mom has a very nice name. She makes good breakfast.

What I love about the winding path Arnold creates in this piece is that she introduces an idea and then builds suspense by saying very little about it, and then re-visiting the same idea in greater detail later. We can see this several times in this section alone. She explores more things Mommy allows her to do, which lends credit to the idea that Mommy also loves Arnold. Arnold began her piece by giving an example of Mom’s “very, very, good food,” and here she gives the reader a further taste of Mom’s cooking (pun intended). But what I find particularly interesting is how the structure of the last two lines of this section perfectly mirror the first two lines of the piece. Here we see Arnold first chooses to discuss Mom’s name and THEN discusses the “good breakfast” she makes, much like how she began the piece by discussing Mommy’s cooking and THEN her name. It’s tactics like this that give Arnold’s writing its witty, and poignant style she’s known for.

If I have a bad day, my Mom cheers me up. My Mom lets me keep big boxes and make them into a club. She lets me have friends over. She comes to my recitals…she comes to practically everything. I do not like it when she makes me read. We go on cool vacations. My Mom goves us a day off.

Here Arnold explores more complex ideas, such as depression, friendships, and education. She effortlessly examines the importance of self-care, which clearly Mom had taught her by “[giving] us a day off.” Interestingly, Arnold chose not to use the standard English spelling of “gives” and went with the more elusive Latin spelling of “goves.” (Don’t look it up.) It really shows her attention to detail and appreciation of different cultures.

It is fun having a Mom like her!

In typical Arnold fashion, she leaves us wanting more. More examples of good food, places Mom takes her, and of course, dear god I want to know more about this Lauren character–but that’s truly what makes Arnold an artist. She knows how to build suspense and keep her readers coming back for more. Her attention to detail is unparalleled. Note her choice in artwork for this piece serves both as a colorful and happy frame as well as a call to action for diversity inclusion in the world of literature.

 

On the real, Denise Arnold is pretty all the time, still cheers me up when I have a bad day, and makes me good food on the reg. She’s the best roommate I could ever ask for, although as a landlord I think she could loosen up and bit and let me get a puppy.

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Arnold and Mommy, 2014

Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! I am forever grateful that somehow I was lucky enough to get you as my mom, although I still have no clue what I did to deserve you. You’re my inspiration, my confidant, my best friend. I love you more, always.

Xoxo