Student Essay:
A Word Is a Wand

By Jeanne-Marie du Plessis

We easily forget the power and mystery of language, but these realities are never absent.

It was words that first drew me in. Sometimes I wonder why I’m made like I am, and that little thought opens the floodgates of skepticism and self-deprecation—but words! I tear pages out of notebooks and write it all out in black and white so I can understand the confusion of thoughts and emotions inside me. That first night, I settled on this desperate measure; I sat in silence afterwards, trying to wrap my mind around the magic of words. Marks on paper or pixels on a screen, sounds passed on silently from surface to surface—magic.

Let me illustrate my point. I, the writer of this sentence, and you, the reader of it, are meeting at this exact word—we are together in this moment. Time is irrelevant and differences in location affect nothing. I cannot see you and you cannot see me, but for now, we’re traveling down this screen together. I hope you don’t mind. 

Whoever said that humans are mortal was a downright liar. If you have the guts, you can transfer little bits of your soul onto paper, and voilà—the magic is at work. Then you ball that paper up and throw it into the world’s Water Hole of Ideas, Knowledge, and the Bottomless Collection of Thoughts and Feelings of Mankind in General. If you throw it hard enough, sometimes it can make quite the splash. Consider the famous clause from the Terms and Conditions of Writing (Section 182-B) that few writers seem willing to recall: “You agree to being aware of the fact that every word you write and make available to the access of Mankind in General has an effect on every reader, and you take full responsibility for this effect and its possible consequences.”

Spell, noun. From Old English spell (“news, story”), from Proto-Germanic *spellą (“speech, account, tale”).

Let me suggest something radical. Why not write our little bits of souls into something beautiful and grand, like a flood? There are many ugly, festering edges in the aforementioned Water Hole. In fact, there’s a swamp located somewhere in the middle; it poisons some of us who go down to revive ourselves with words. Why not wash these away with good words—overflow the boundaries, or at least drown the filth?

And let me suggest something even more radical: the previous suggestion was not, in fact, radical at all. Basic human dignity depends on the existence of brotherly love. If you are not even willing to pour a cup of the pure, clean, fresh water of words for a stranger, the world will turn into a desert.

But now I, the writer of this sentence, must fondly say goodbye to you, the reader of these words. We’ve magicked our way through several paragraphs, and here, I will leave you with a farewell cup of good, strong words brewed up by Ursula K. Le Guin:

A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.

We can use our magic to illuminate the world’s dark places. Will you?


Jeanne-Marie du Plessis is an eighteen year old senior in high school from the Washington D.C. area. She will be attending Patrick Henry College in the fall as a Journalism major. She loves music, and enjoys challenging herself in education, athletics, and taking CLT exams.

Student contributions to the Journal are accepted from every CLT examinee who places among the forty best-performing students on each test. Congratulations to Miss du Plessis on her outstanding score! If you enjoyed this piece, check out some of our other high-scoring students, like this one on free will as examined through Wuthering Heights, or this collection of sketches and paintings from the Veritas School in Richmond, VA; you might also enjoy these posts on the role of poetry in education and the importance of memorization.

Published on 24th March, 2022.

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