Out of Focus – Margaret Buffie

Table of Content

Out Of Focus, a fictional novel written by Margaret Buffie, tells the story of Bernie Dodd, a teenager burdened with the responsibility of looking after her younger siblings due to their single mother, an irresponsible alcoholic named Celia. At the age of thirteen, Bernie expressed to her mother that she would only refer to her as “Mom” once she stopped drinking (Buffie, 29). Now sixteen, Bernie still addresses her mother as Celia. However, things take a turn for the better when Celia announces her upcoming marriage to Mario, a genuinely nice guy who loves kids. This new development brings hope to Bernie and her siblings Ally and Jojo.

Instead of living in a roach-infested apartment, they will have a house. They won’t have to worry about the bully in the hallway, and there will be groceries in the fridge. Hopefully, Celia will also become sober. However, on the morning of the wedding, Bernie discovers that Celia has canceled the entire event. Bernie’s life revolves around three priorities: taking care of her younger brother and sister, pursuing her passion for photography, and addressing Celia’s alcoholism problem, despite her repeated promises to get sober. This cancellation is just one more disappointment on a long list. Bernie is appalled that her mother is unable to overcome her alcohol addiction.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

Bernie devises a plan to relocate her mother and provide everyone with an opportunity for a fresh start. Learning of her mother’s unexpected inheritance of Black Spruce Lodge, an unfamiliar guest lodge located on an Ontario lake, Bernie compels her mother to take them there under the threat of involving Social Services and risking her children’s custody. Despite the dilapidated state of the lodge and their own desperate circumstances, Bernie insists on diligently renovating the property, creating a livelihood by running a store catering to the summer visitors.

This plan starts to work out, with the assistance of friendly neighbors who adored Charlotte, their aunt. Bernie’s world begins to gradually change. Her mother begins to regain control of her life, abstaining from alcohol, devoting more attention to Ally and Jojo, and making an effort to finally be a genuine mother to Bernie. The novel Out of Focus is written in the first person by the main protagonist, Bernie Dodd. For example, “I was about to wriggle deeper into my sleeping bag when something light and fast ran across my legs” (Buffie, 66). Utilizing first person narration makes the novel more personal and empowers the character’s perspective of the story.

The reader can experience the character’s emotions in a particular situation. Additionally, a continuous metaphor in the novel is represented through black and white snaps. Bernie uses her father’s camera and finds other cameras in Black Spruce Lodge to capture black and white pictures. According to her father, these pictures truly capture people’s inner emotions, as opposed to color shots which reflect superficial masks. This metaphor contributes to the overall mood of both Bernie’s character and the novel itself.

Finally, Bernie’s dad serves as an example of a flashback in the novel. This flashback reveals Bernie’s role as both a mother and a father to her younger siblings while her mother was absent due to her drinking habits. Through this use of flashback, the author showcases Bernie’s increasing responsibilities, some of which surpass her capabilities. The novel Out of Focus also draws a connection to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. In Hatchet, the protagonist Brian learns to survive on his own after being stranded in the Canadian wilderness.

Both novels, Bernie and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, depict independent teenagers who have to take care of themselves and their siblings. In Bernie, the protagonist is compared to Bernie who assumes the responsibility of looking after her siblings. Similarly, The Outsiders portrays characters such as Ponyboy and his friends who navigate life without parental guidance. Bernie’s situation is akin to the lives of these characters as her mother is often intoxicated and neglectful, leaving Bernie to become the guardian figure for her siblings.

I made this connection because both novels feature teenagers who are responsible for themselves and others due to the absence of their parents or having an alcoholic parent. Bernie, a character in Margaret Buffie’s book, has a remarkable self-assurance that I admire. Although Bernie is fictional, she serves as a role model for me. The book’s message inspired me to assert myself and refuse to be mistreated, just as Bernie stood up against her mother’s behavior.

The novel written by Margaret Buffie had me captivated throughout. I was reluctant to set the book aside as the plot was fast-paced and filled with suspense. One drawback, however, was the use of first person point of view. While it enables readers to deeply connect with a specific character’s perspective, it also confines their experience to that singular viewpoint. Consequently, readers can only access the information known to that character. I would suggest this book to teenagers who may be confronting similar issues or anyone intrigued by this genre.

Cite this page

Out of Focus – Margaret Buffie. (2018, Mar 27). Retrieved from


Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront