Annie Dillard

Stylistic Analysis Of Annie Dillard’s Essay

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Babies Are Not Always a Good Thing

Throughout human history, people have always looked forward to and celebrated the births of people, so much so that they have dedicated an entire branch of medicine that deals with it. While usually a nurse in the hospital is dealing with death and disease everyday, OB-gyn and maternity nurses get to help bring in new life everyday, multiple times a day. Though most people would love to work as a maternity nurse, and would be happy and excited to work with those miracles, it does start to become just a job sooner or later, where the joy just wears off, as is the case in Annie Dillard’s essay where she describes the routines that the nurses go through everyday. In the piece, she uses rhetorical devices to demonstrate a critical and cold attitude toward the treatment of babies by the nurses.

When Dillard describes the first scene in her essay, she uses a lot of imagery. In the first through third paragraphs, she describes the baby-washing station like one would expect a factory line to look and sound like. She says that they wash the newborns like dishes, with the nurses changing throughout eight hour shifts. This is one of the times when the author uses imagery in order to set the tone for the essay. By Dillard painting the image of a factory line as a baby-washing station, the reader can start to see that the tone for this essay is not a positive one; the babies are treated like objects. With this example of imagery, it is evident that the tone is cold and critical. Another example of imagery that supports the tone can be found on the second page. Lines 35-37 say that the nurse bundles him up and just sends him down the line, like one would in an assembly line. With these example of imagery, it is clear to the reader that the tone is cold and critical because normally, in the presence of a baby, a person would be happy and excited, here, the nurses are bored and do not even care about them anymore, they refer to them as objects, not even worthy of names.

Aside from imagery, Dillard also uses analogies to demonstrate her tone. One of the first examples of analogies can be found on the first page of the essay. On the first page, the nurse describes the baby’s head using an analogy, she compares his head with a cone-head/ dunce cap. Not only is this an analogy, but this is also satire because this is mean and judgemental, the nurse is drawing a mean comparison for the purpose of making fun of him. This mean and judgemental analogy really demonstrates that at this point, the nurses really do not care about the babies, and it shows that the tone in this essay is cold and critical. Another example of the use of analogies to set the tone can be found on the first page also. In the sixth paragraph, the narrator compares a clot to the baby. She compares the creation myth from the Quran, where Allah created life with a blood clot, with a newborn! An object that can disappear/ dissolve with TPA (a medicine/ solution that can dissolve blood clots non-invasively) is being compared to a baby, which can only disappear with the use of another human, which is murder. This analogy shows that at this point, the nurses really consider the babies as objects, which goes to show that the tone in this essay is cold and critical.

In summation, Annie Dillard’s tone and attitude in her essay is cold and critical. In order to set the tone, she uses two major rhetorical devices, and another mixed in among the two. She uses imagery and analogies, with some satire mixed in. She uses these devices in order to tell the readers that babies are not for everyone, and that people do get tired of them.

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An Issue of Death and God in Ecclesiastes by Qohelet and Fecundity by Annie Dillard

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The author of Ecclesiastes, Qohelet, wrestles with the purpose of our short-lived lives because, whatever investments humans may make, it does not satisfy the transience of life. Annie Dillard chapter, “Fecundity” in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, grapples with her perceptions on life and death. Furthermore, she is confused as to why she even cares about death in the first place. Both Qohelet and Dillard acknowledge that every life ends in death yet, the manner in how they wrestle with human kind’s inevitable end leads to two different conclusions: one with God and one without. Thus, Qohelet finds hope, despite the brevity of life, while Dillard refuses to see that there can be any such thing. Dillard’s wrestling with death leads her to conclude that death is not the “curse” but, that our emotions are, while Qohelet also struggles with death, he comes to a different conclusion.

For Qohelet, it is not the emotions that are the “curse”, but rather it is sin and death. Qohelet does express an excess of emotions, as he too struggles with the elusiveness of life, illustrating his sentiments with the word hevel. Hevel’s meaning as Dr. Elaine Phillips writes, “is ‘vapor’ or ‘breath’… Every endeavor is like a breath; it is transitory – here and gone. ” Thereby, Qohelet does not discount emotions regarding the transience of life but much of what Qohelet is saying in Ecclesiastes is contemplating the effects of the Fall in Genesis 3, referencing Genesis 3:19, “…you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust and you will return to dust. ” Qohelet words are similar in Ecclesiastes 3:20. Qohelet understands that death is the result of disobedience, but he still battles to comprehend the transience of life.

For Dillard, humans are the “freaks. ” Humans are “freaks” because we value the life of people, unlike the rest of nature, as nature does not seem to care if we live or die. Therefore, there must be something wrong with us as she places Nature as the criteria that measures the value of human life. She writes, “…we are moral creatures, then, in an amoral world. ” Hence, completely ruling out any other source that could account for her concerns about death. Although, the transience of life disturbs Qohelet, he, unlike Dillard, is driven to compare human existence to the divine. In so doing, he finds the source of joy and hope in life given by God. Dillard wallows in despair when faced with death while Qohelet, knows that despite despair there is hope and joy given by God. Dillard’s deduction that humans are freaks, as nature does not care about the human existence it holds, leaves her reader with the dread that the world possess no hope. To Dillard, this is just the way the world works’ and humans must learn to cope with it. Qohelet, by contrast, understands that there is hope given to mankind given by God, in spite of facing the hevel of life, the end that is death, and the injustice that occurs in this world.

Qohelet is frustrated about the transience of life as anything that man pursues is fleeting. Our toil and hard work are only temporary just like the extent of our lives; here and then gone again. We shall not be remembered. Although Qohelet knows that our lives are but a puff of air, he states that despite this end, God gives enjoyment in life. Qohelet writes, “Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun. . . This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart”.

Hence, despite the transience of life, God gifts man with joy and gives satisfaction in his work. This is the hope that Qohelet offers in Ecclesiastes. Dillard asks us to search outside of God for a satisfactory answer to death but there is no hope to be found there. Qohelet does address the transience of life, but notices that God is the source of all joy and hope therefore, not all is lost. Therefore, mankind cannot be truly satisfied without God.

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Living Like Weasels Vs Transfiguration: Comparing Two Essays by Annie Dillard

May 6, 2021 by Essay Writer

In Annie Dillard’s essay, “Living Like Weasels”, she explains her first encounter with a weasel and what she gained from that experience. She begins with a story of how a man shot an eagle out of the sky and once he examined the eagle, “he found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to his throat”(1). Dillard is showing how the weasel died by protecting one necessity, which is its life. She then moves to the place where she first “exchanged a long glance”(2) with a weasel while she was sitting on a tree trunk near Hollins Pond. She continues, “Our eyes locked, and someone threw away the key…He disappeared. This was only last week, and already I don’t remember what shattered the enchantment”(2). The weasel disappeared following its instincts, “The weasel lives in necessity and we live in choice, hating necessity and dying at the last ignobly in its talons”(2). Dillard is saying how an individual goes throughout their life being cautious while a weasel just lives by following its instincts. She wants to learn how to live that way, in the way of the weasel, “I would like to learn, or remember, how to live”(3). Her idea of doing this is to “stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse”(3). Dillard believes one should stop living so cautiously and instead live “yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity”(3).

In another one of Annie Dillard’s essays, “Transfiguration”, she also discusses about the way one should go about living. She begins this essay by going into great details about several moth corpses that she finds in a spiders web in her bathroom floor. She then quickly goes back to a time when she was camping alone. She explains how during that camping trip she read a novel that made her want to be a writer at the age of sixteen and then she adds, “I was hoping it would do it again”(111). One night while camping, she was reading by candlelight, “a moth flew into the candle, was caught, burnt dry, and held.”(112). She goes into great detail about the moth burning in the candle, “The wax rose in the moth’s body from her soaking abdomen to her thorax to the jagged hole where her head should be, and widened into flame, a saffron-yellow flame that robed her to the ground like any immolating monk. The moths head was fire.”(112). She then shows that she was telling that story to her students to show them what inspired her to be a writer, “I also told them they must go into life with broadax. But they had no idea what I was saying”(113). She was trying to show her students the struggle of maintaining inspiration. She uses the moth as a moment that can eventually turn significant and the flame as the inspiration. So when the moth turns into flame, it is no longer just a moth but something that shows inspiration.

Both of these essays show that Annie Dillard has certain ideas when it comes to the way to live ones life. She believes one should having meaning, inspiration and necessity. One shouldn’t live so cautiously but instead have significance and pointed will. She uses animals as symbols to show her way of thinking.

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Analysis of Annie Dillard’s Memoir “An American Childhood”

May 6, 2021 by Essay Writer

Annie Dillard’s memoir, An American Childhood, is filled and adorned with innumerable instances of figurative language. Using an eloquent, articulate prose, Dillard describes in vivid language and excruciating detail the vast array of memories and experiences that make up her childhood. Each page of the novel contains literary devices presented in the form of figurative language that spring forth from the page and engulf the reader with superb examples of imagery that remain in their memory far beyond the moment of reading the text. In writing her memoir, Dillard uses her masterful command of the English language to convey her personal evocations using literary devices like allusion, symbolism, and simile to more effectively express her memories and to enrich the reader’s experience.

An American Childhood lacks a solid, continuous plot, and is presented as a series of anecdotes. These anecdotes are not presented as a day to day account of Dillard’s childhood, but rather have an impressionistic edge to them, with each anecdote playing an important role in the development of the characters and storyline. For example, the reader learns of Dillard’s experience with a fictional monster in her room that was, in reality, a shadow cast by light from a passing car. This event teaches Dillard that her imagination is a tool under her command which she can manipulate and command to create a world beyond the one she was living in. The reader is exposed to many other anecdotes such as her being chased by a driver, her time spent in a lakehouse on Lake Erie, and the time she crashed a car at a drag race. All of these memories continue to be important for Dillard because in each of them she can recall becoming more alert and aware of her own psyche and environment, aiding her development as an artist.

Annie Dillard’s memoir, An American Childhood, is filled and adorned with references to innumerable literary and 1950’s pop culture sources. Dillard starts off the prologue with a backstory that includes Benjamin Franklin having “already invented his stove in Philadelphia by 1753 and Thomas Jefferson was a schoolboy in Virginia.” In another part, the author writes, “In 1753, young George Washington surveyed the land for the English this point of land where rivers met.” Dillard then takes these allusions as scenery for the exposition of the 1950’s period where she grew up and explored. She ties these historical references in by sharing her own experiences growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with cherished anecdotes about her mother’s eccentricity and her father’s stolid manner that gives you a sense of the conventional American family scheme that she grew up in. Dillard also holds that as children, they grew up living in and believing in the history that Pittsburgh held, but never really knowing that they lived and believed in it. It is the paradoxical concept of when Jean-Paul Sartre in his book Nausea, states, “I am. I am. I exist. I think, therefore I am; I am because I think, why do I think?” The children do not see the larger picture of things. They do not see the majesty and authority of Poseidon’s trident: they see how shiny and fun it is. It is parallel to how they view Pittsburgh. The children see Frick Park and Mellon Park and how the sun shines right on the water in the pond, but with their peculiar Catcher in the Rye-like innocence, they do not see beyond face value. To the children, there is so much more to see in ordinary things, even as the history has been written.

Continuingly, another allusion that Dillard makes can be found in the first chapter. “They wake like sleepwalkers, in full stride; they wake like people brought back from cardiac arrest or from drowning: in medias res, surrounded by familiar people and objects, equipped with a hundred skills.” In medias res, is Latin for “into the middle of things,” and was first coined by Roman poet and satirist, Horace, in his poem, “The Art of Poetry.” Dillard takes an unorthodox stance on growing up as describing it as a scrappy, “piecemeal” stir from a long slumber, only to find that everything is familiar as though it had been done so many times before but did not feel as though it was a mundane task. Instead of a gradual progression, maturing is described as a cyclical forgetting and relearning only to be terrified that you would never be so clearly cognizant of the world ever again. That is why Dillard uses in medias res, to convey the audacity of it all. It is as if growing up is like being thrown “into the middle” of a warzone, and knowing how to fight, but not for what reason.

A significant example of symbolism in the story lies with the Polyphemus moth. The story of the Polyphemus moth is a central image for Dillard in her growing up. The cocoon in the Mason jar opens to reveal a huge moth that could not expand because of the small jar, and its wings “hardened while still crumbled from the cocoon.” The jar is taken outside to let the moth go, and it begins walking slowly down the driveway on its small legs. When she is an adult, the author remembers the moth as she walked down that driveway for the last time. “I have told this story before, and may yet tell it again, to lay the moth’s ghost, for I still see it crawl down the broad black driveway, and I still see its golden wing clumps heave.” As Dillard moves on with her life, the moth is the virtual representation of her life. Never having left Pittsburgh in her life before her departure for college, little Annie is the moth in the jar. She spreads her wings when she is let go, and takes a clumsy yet worthwhile walk down the “driveway” to all that life holds for.

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